The first article focused on Telemedicine projects in South Africa and Uganda. This article will look at the telemedicine initiatives in two more African countries: Ghana and Ethiopia.
More than 50 percent of the population in African countries lives in rural locations, while most physicians in Africa only practice in bigger cities that have good infrastructure and a concentrated patient base. This leaves a massive gap in medical care, especially since the average doctor to patient ratio in Africa is one doctor to about one million inhabitants. This extreme shortage of health professionals in the African region results to a very great burden of disease for patients.
Telemedicine can help this dire medical situation in Africa by providing rural villages with access to medical specialists, thus improving the quality of care in rural areas, and reducing the need for rural patients to travel far distances to seek medical attention. By using satellite services and VSAT platforms on the ground, numerous remote and isolated sites can be connected to any urban hospital, and with the use of VSAT platforms, the remoteness of rural areas is no longer a factor for connectivity. This means that patients in remote villages can avail medical services that were once available only at cities, thanks to telemedicine and satellite technology.
Below we will go through the effects of telemedicine in Ghana and Ethiopia, and see the effect of telemedicine to the medical community and patients in the two countries.
Telemedicine is also gaining much support in Ghana where many projects are underway. Novartis is sponsoring a Telemedicine Project in Ghana that seeks to improve healthcare access for residents of the Bonsaaso Cluster of Millennium Development Villages located in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development initiated the Telemedicine Project in Bonsaaso Cluster in an effort to strengthen the human resources in rural areas and to improve the quality of primary healthcare. The Telemedicine Project in Ghana was done in cooperation with the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Communications in Ghana, National Health Insurance Agency Ghana, Ghana Health Service, and the Ghana Medical Association.
The Telemedicine Project in Ghana aims to reduce transportation time and costs for patients and their families, to increase medical knowledge and safety in primary healthcare facilities, and to strengthen local capacities in telemedicine. With the help of Ericsson, Airtel and the Ghana Ministry of Communications, mobile network accessibility was expanded to 21 communities and all seven health facilities in the Bonsaaso Cluster. These activities were complemented by the procurement of necessary telemedicine equipment including mobile phones, and the creation of a toll-free emergency number.
In Ethiopia, there are about 9 radiologists for almost 60 million people. There are only 21 radiologicalcenters in Ethiopia, so specialists must travel from center to center to examine the patients. To provide better healthcare services to patients in Ethiopia, a Telemedicine Project was planned to introduce Teleradiology Applications in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The medical and communications equipment for telemedicine are to be installed in one or two local clinics in the Tigray region.
The first task is to connect one health clinic with the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa. The second task is to connect a doctor travelling from village to village with the Regional Hospital in Tigray. Satellite services on VSAT systems are to be used to provide communications and connect the rural areas to the Black Lion Hospital and Tigray Regional Hospital.
This article will be continued in the third and final part titled The Importance of Telemedicine through Satellite in Africa (Part 3): Senegal and Kenya.
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