Consumer-grade technology has significantly altered the banking, retail, travel, and communications industries. This provides an opportunity to change the way health care is delivered. Scientific societies and governments from around the world have become increasingly interested in communication technologies and their role in providing better access to care while leading to substantial economic and social benefits.Whether referred to as telehealth, telemedicine, or e-health, health care communications technology offers novel means of delivering care to patients, independent of time or place, and is increasingly recognized as an important component in the modernization of the health care system.
Telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients' health status or for educational purposes. It includes consultative, diagnostic, and treatment services.
In keeping with our commitment to provide high quality, cost effective and appropriate health care solutions to the medically underserved population of Africa; Telemedicine Africa has developed a holistic, multi-level service offering.
We believe that technology is the ideal enabler to bridge the gap in traditional healthcare services in resource poor settings. Our technologies open a channel of access that can extend throughout the continuum of care to provide service at each level.
Community health care continues to grow in importance throughout the world and particularly in developing countries with limited traditional healthcare infrastructure. Community health workers are vital in extending the provision of care directly into the community and reducing the burden on traditional clinic and hospital infrastructure. Telemedicine and mhealth solutions have a significant role to play in empowering and supporting these vital resources.
Mobile phone use in particular is exploding across the developing world, offering the opportunity to leapfrog other applications and services on both the health and technology fronts.
Mobile electronic health tools such as cell phones and telemedicine technologies are rapidly transforming the face and context of health care service delivery around the world.
Clinics currently carry much of the burden for the provision of primary healthcare services. There remains, however, a growing demand for the expansion of services available at clinics, a demand that cannot be met by traditional resource and infrastructure. Traditionally all these cases were simply referred to local hospitals, placing additional pressure on their limited resources and adding to both the cost of care and delays in the provision of care. Telemedicine offers an opportunity to meet this demand locally on the ground.
Throughout telemedicine technology the service offering can be expanded to include:
Hospital services are by no means exempt from the resource pressures experienced at other levels of care, in fact it is often here that the greatest pressure on the limited resources is experienced. A chronic shortage of skilled professionals not only means that there is tremendous workload, but also that there are frequently a complete absence of specialist skills required for treatment. This translates to frequent upward referral of patients resulting in significant cost and delays in the provision of treatment. Within this established infrastructure, telemedicine provides an ideal solution, opening a channel of care that substantially reduces costs and speeds up access to care and treatment. The fact that there are existing physical resources available means that more sophisticated services can be provided remotely.
These include, but are not limited to:
In addition the providing access to specialist services at a local hospital level, telemedicine technology also allows interaction and service provision at a regional or provincial level between tertiary institutions.
This allows for closer collaboration and greater knowledge sharing. This collaboration can also be extended by the technology to leverage private resources remotely into the public sector, where required, at a substantially reduced price.
The Telemedicine Africa Virtual Telehealth Centre is a dedicated telemedicine centre of excellence.
The Virtual Telehealth Centre does not provide any face-to-face service, but rather provides a dedicated service channel for the entire continuum of care. At this facility doctors and specialists provide medical advice remotely to facilities at each level of care. Because there is no physical patient or facility management, service providers can focus exclusively on providing medical advice for each case that is presented, regardless of the level at which the patient is presenting.
The only limitation is the telemedicine technology available at the point of care.
The significant increase in the prevalence of non-communicable, lifestyle diseases and chronic conditions has led to a growing recognition of the need for improved wellness management. The emergence of chronic conditions as a result of poor lifestyle and wellness management, places a substantial strain both on the healthcare infrastructure and the economy as a whole. Lost productivity and hospitalization due to the mismanagement of chronic disease have a long-term negative impact throughout society. It is for this reason that Telemedicine Africa is committed to the development and provision of wellness and disease management solutions that will have a real impact in improving the health and wellbeing of all South Africans.
Solutions in this area encompass the full spectrum of service, both within the corporate wellness segment and community healthcare: