A Continental Africa Telemedicine Alliance (CATA) has been formed at the recently-held West Africa International Health Summit (WAIHS), with the aim of lobbying regulatory groups across the continent to push through the significance of telemedicine.
According to Karen Hendrickson, the interim executive secretary for CATA, the new initiative will seek to establish an advocacy group to deal with the various regulatory bodies across Africa in order for the continent not to lag behind.
Speaking to B&FT in an interview at the just-ended health summit in Accra, she stated that: “The idea behind the alliance is we will come together, identify the challenges, hurdles and opportunities, and now engage governmental organisations across the continent to form a working relationship to remove those challenges.
“We will not wait for a longer period before deciding that Africa is ready for telemedicine, we want to be at the forefront”.
The alliance has over eight members drawn from member-countries across the African continent.
She explained that there are more patients than doctors across the continent, with most of them at remote areas; however, most people own mobile phones – which will enable a further reach, especially for specialised disciplines such as dermatology or neurology wherein one would not typically find a specialist in such remote areas.
Telemedicine, essentially, is the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical health care from a distance. It has been used to overcome distance barriers in the more advanced countries and improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities.
With the launch of this alliance at the summit, it is expected to improve health delivery in Africa.
For instance, with the aid of telemedicine, a patient does not have to travel to the provider and saves time.
It also eliminates any chances of transmitting infectious diseases from a patient to the health care professional, saves time, offers time-efficient solutions and reduces costs significantly.
The most important aspect of telemedicine is its ability to cater for the needs of patients from any place at any given time.
Telemedicine is highly beneficial for occupational medicine, and helps to formulate an efficient and reliable healthcare plan.
Ghana’s Deputy Ambassador to China, Dr. Charles Dwamena, indicated that the summit has been successful, and added that partners have agreed to set up ten dialysis centres across Africa, with Ghana and Ivory Coast expected to have two while the rest is shared among other African countries.
He noted that the importance of telemedicine to the continent is crucial in the 21st century and can no longer be deferred. “It is something we cannot delay any longer, because when you look at Africa Internet penetration is less than forty percent.
“Again, you look at a continent which is the future of the world; this same continent has the poorest doctor-patient ratio with some countries having two doctors per hundred thousand patients, whereas we have the opportunity of using telemedicine to address these issues.”.
The West Africa International Health Summit is an international health-gathering that creates a platform for hospital leaders, policymakers and healthcare professionals across borders to meet and share practical experiences and best practices in healthcare.
The three-day summit ran from February 20 through to 22nd and provided an opportunity for the leaders and decisionmakers to interface with manufacturers of the latest healthcare technologies, products, equipment and services.
The 2019 event was under the theme ‘Collaborating through networking and technology for improved healthcare in Africa’, and hosted 691 manufacturers and suppliers, and over 30 sessions in various disciplines ranging from Health Finance, Health Management and Administration, Telemedicine, UN SDGs, Public Health, Nursing, Herbal Medicine, Diagnostics among others.