Setting up A Telemedicine Station in Africa: Episode 1
by John Bennett MD
I have the greatest job in the world. I get to browse the great stuff happening across the landscape in Healthcare due to digitalization. It is happening in many settings, and in many sciences, and we try to bring out the good stuff, so busy people like you don’t have to comb the internet looking for it, when you get home from work.
We run across people around the globe in this job. With social media, it is easy to find people from almost every continent through Facebook. Establish interests and sometimes they get in contact with you.
That is how I got in contact with Jones Muna, an enterprising nurse from Livingstone, Zambia. Zambia? Where in hell’s name is that? African countries change names a lot, and maybe it is a new one.
After finding it, I noted the name “Livingstone” rang a bell. From the well-known, Stanley and Livingstone with the embedded phrase, “Livingstone, I presume!”. And, as you can see from looking at the map of Southern Africa, Zambia is, truly, in the “heart” of Africa. Stanley was not joking.
From a few emails with Jones, he made known to me the state of the healthcare system in Livingstone, and at the clinic at which he worked. He is rather tech savvy, and blogs copiously across Africa, so he knows the resources available, including Telemedicine. (Jones is an active blogger for the online blog, Modern Ghana: see it HERE.)
Jones expressed a need for help, to try to tap the power of Telemedicine, to help him out.
Well, I know that there are organizations out there, including the Gates Foundation, that are helping fund these type of Telemedicine programs. And, coincidentally, a friend is just starting work at a well-known, US-based international Telemedicine company. (I won’t identify him, or his company, until I get his permission. Maybe later.)
We also have contacted Nick, an ex-IBM worker, who works in the capital, who expressed a desire to work with us, but we have had a hard time communicating with him, but we will keep trying. It will be beneficial to have Nic on our team, but, of course, communication is everything.
So, my pea-brain went into overdrive. I figure, why not write a continuing story about trying to set up a Telemedicine station in Zambia. Get to know the obstacles, both logistical and poliltical, etc. And publish, here, a weekly Sunday night post detailing our efforts and possible problems we run into.
to inform the millions of people that read this blog, and keep them on the edge of their seats, until the next Sunday blog.
So, I am jumping in the water, and this is Episode 1!
It probably is best to approach Project Hope, or the Gates Foundation with a concrete plan. So, I reasoned, the first step is to get the Anatomy of the Clinic where Jones works, followed by the Physiology, and how the clinic fucntions, i.e. how do the patients get x-rayed, labs, how do they buy medicine now, etc. And pictures, lots of them.
We communicate rather well with Skype, but the picture is sort of grainy, etc., so I instructed Jones to go to the nearest Broad Band internet location with key personel, so we can do a Google Hangout, sometime in the near
future. I will be posting that when we do it.
Next week, I hope to show the information that Jones sends me, about the layout, photos, etc. and you may be able to witness our attempts to establish a New African Telemedicine clinic! Stay tuned, to see if we can put the pieces together, or will we run across widespread inefficiencies, or deep African government corruption!