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Stakeholders call for use of telemedicine for quality c*re

Friday, April 12th, 2024 05:40 | By
Empty bed in a hospital ward. Photo/Pexels

Healthcare stakeholders have been urged to consider utilising telemedicine technology to provide quality affordable care while increasing coverage and lowering preventable childhood deaths.

Health stakeholders who spoke during World Health Day emphasised that technology plays a crucial role in improving healthcare access and called for enactment of favourable policies to support telemedicine and other health technology initiatives.

Led by Patrick Amoth, the Director General for Health at the Ministry of Health and Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital CEO, Dr Robert Nyarango, the stakeholders insisted that telemedicine can help reach people in underserved communities with health services.

“We are now in the process of developing regulations to operationalise e-health, m-health, and telemedicine with careful consideration of our laws and data protection and confidentiality. The recently inaugurated board of digital health has been tasked with developing these regulations within the next 6 weeks for submission to parliament for approval,” said Dr Amoth.

On his part, Nyarango revealed that Daktari Smart, a telemedicine programme run by Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital, Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation, and the Mpesa Foundation and which aims to reach and treat at least 32,400 children in five counties in the initial phase targets to impact 5 million children in the region.

Rare diseases

He further revealed that the programme will directly provide care for 45,000 children who are suffering from rare and complex non-communicable diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Since it was launched in 2021, the Daktari Smart initiative has reached 10,000 children with specialised paediatric medical care in Narok, Samburu, Baringo, Homa Bay, and Lamu counties.

“The Daktari Smart programme has so far been implemented in 5 counties, allowing 10,000 children to access specialised paediatric care that they would otherwise never have received. There is an opportunity to serve more children through working together as stakeholders to increase the number of counties on Daktari Smart to support the limited number of paediatricians and other specialists,” said Dr Nyarango, adding, “At such a scale and with the communities covered under Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF), the healthcare system will be strengthened to deliver high quality early diagnosis and more efficient utilization of the available scarce healthcare resources.”

Human right

During this year’s World Health Day celebrations themed “My Health, My Right”, the stakeholders called for consideration of health as a human right to which everyone should have access.

A 2022 study, the health workforce status in the WHO African Region: findings of a cross-sectional study published in the BMJ Global Health, found that with an average of 13.8 healthcare workers per 10,000 people, Kenya has significantly fewer professionals in the healthcare sector than the WHO’s recommended 44.5 doctors, nurses and midwives for every 10,000 people. This leads to difficulties in accessing healthcare services especially considering the ratio increases when it comes to specialists.

Karen Basiye, Director Sustainable Business and Social Impact, Safaricom PLC, called for partnership and investment to sustain the impact managed through health-tech initiatives such as the Daktari Smart programme.

“The role of technology in healthcare is improving access to healthcare through leveraging digital interventions. We need to get partners and financing to support technology initiatives that improve healthcare accessibility and inclusivity. At Safaricom, we are prioritising the creation of digital health solutions that bring together multiple advancements to improve healthcare access while reducing costs,” said Basiye.

The Daktari Smart telemedicine kit comprises electronic medical devices such as the Electronic Stethoscope, Vital Signs Monitor, Derma Scope Camera, Ultrasound Machine, inner ear observing Otoscope, and Electrocardiogram (ECG) to check heart rhythm and electrical activity. Unlike conventional video conferencing, the Daktari Smart kit allows healthcare workers at the local partner facilities to place the devices on the patient and allows specialist doctors at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital to make a diagnosis and thereby offer advanced medical care.

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