Ongoing national efforts to boost health services access through technological solutions have received the commendation of medical players in East Africa.
Delegates attending the Regional East African Integrated Digital Health Roadmap Conference in Kampala, Uganda last week identified the opportunity for telemedicine, such as the telemedicine solution being piloted by Huawei Technologies in Kenya, as an important priority for the region amongst other digital health initiatives.
The solution developed by Huawei Technologies in conjunction with Safaricom Limited, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Ministry of Health among other stakeholders is ready for testing in remote Lamu County and the Coastal region once the nurses return to work. Key national and regional stakeholders expressed interest in the solution and hope that, if successful, similar solutions can be scaled up nationally and regionally enabling the sharing of scare medical expertise between counties and countries in the region.
Speaking at the conference organized by the East Africa Health Research Commission (EAHRC), Huawei Technologies Public Affairs Director, Adam Lane, said the telemedicine solution can allow for remote specialized consultations and medical education at Lamu County Hospital and other facilities. Doctors and nurses will be able to utilize video conferencing facilities for consultations which, Lane explained, can provide for a more efficient health system in the remote coastal region. Even if there were enough specialists, even if there was enough funding to pay for them, and even if they are willing to live in remote areas—none of which is currently the case—it would still not be efficient having specialists based in rural areas with sparse populations, even though they also need access to such services.
“At Huawei, we have been leveraging Telemedicine among other ICT solutions to improve healthcare delivery in Lamu County. The solution currently piloting at Lamu can be deployed in any other remote locality within East Africa with measurable positive impact,” Lane said. “In the future, we hope the EAC members will be able to collaborate closely to enable the sharing of medical experts between facilities through video conferencing, lowering costs and improving care for patients across the whole region.”
In Huawei’s social economic estimates, the deployment of telemedicine solutions can afford the economy significant cost savings from reducing travel time by up to 12 hours and travel costs by $20 per patient. “These costs are per person and often a patient needs to go with accompanying family members and even stay overnight incurring greater costs; in fact frequently the time and financial costs are so high that half of patients who need referrals for non-emergencies are put off and do not go for their referrals,” Lane explained.
Some of the biggest problems of healthcare systems today are unevenly distributed medical resources, costly services, and difficulty of providing training to health workers. The Huawei Telemedicine Solution makes care-at-a-distance a reality and extends the reach of quality healthcare to remote locations with remote expert consultation, remote medical education, remote monitoring, and more.
The East African Digital Health conference brought together government officials, development partners, donors, private sector partners, and national, regional and international experts to discuss the eco-system, policies, regulations, infrastructure and costs necessary for the successful scaling up of digital technology in the EAC region.
The participants discussed the draft Regional East Africa Digital Health Roadmap which will guide the regional implementation of digital health initiative. The roadmap guided by collective vision and commitment towards harmonization of digital health information systems in Eastern Africa will: facilitate collaboration within and among countries, the private sector and donors; harmonize digital health systems in the EAC region; facilitate plans and mechanisms to operationalize the resolutions and commitments on digital health; strengthen cross-country learning, sharing best practices and coordination at country and regional levels; and enhance accountability for strengthened governance and management of resources
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