When will Nigeria take advantage of telemedicine?

telemedicinee

For about 40 years now, telemedicine has been used in an appreciable number of countries around the world. It has also become standard medical practice and is in daily use in some of these countries. With the ever increasing growth and impact of information technology, the future of medical practice keeps tending towards telemedicine.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine is simply using medical information that has been exchanged from one site to another through the use of electronic communications to enhance the clinical health status of a patient. Telemedicine gives health care professionals the chance to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients that are in distant and often inaccessible places using telecommunications technology. It also affords patients present in these places the opportunity to gain access to medical expertise quickly and efficiently without having to leave their locations.

With the advent of faster and cheaper internet connections and smartphones, more health providers in some developed countries are now switching over to electronic communications to do their work. In United States of America, for example, many doctors are reaching out to their patients via email, webcam and phone. Medical consultations are being made electronically; many times to take quick decisions on major health issues such as heart attacks and strokes. Patients also are using new electronic devices to transmit their heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs to their doctors so they can deal with chronic conditions at home.

telemedicine

Benefits

  • Healthcare services has been made to be more accessible to patients in remote places. It has also given doctors and health institutions the space to expand beyond their own offices.
  • There are studies to show that telemedicine does not diminish the quality of healthcare delivery. In fact, in some special areas like ICU care and mental health, it has delivered better producing greater outcomes and patient satisfaction.
  • This technology also drastically reduces travel time and other forms of stresses for the patient
  • Amazingly, telemedicine reduces the cost of healthcare while also increasing effectiveness through better management of chronic diseases, reduced hospital stays, and shared health professional staffing.

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Telemedicine in Nigeria

In the year 2010, there was a lot of buzz about the entry of telemedicine into Nigeria. The government definitely saw its potentials and initiated a pilot project. The project was prosecuted by a team of Nigerian experts under the umbrella of the Federal ministry of Science and Technology which was then led by Professor Turner Isoun. The project was meant to close the gap in healthcare delivery by using Information Technology to bypass logistic challenges. Sadly, years after its commissioning, the equipment used during the pilot project including the truck are currently packed within the premises of the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja.

This development is not a strange one in Nigeria; though, it is an extremely sad one. Currently, only one private institution offers telemedicine services in the country. When will telemedicine be fully integrated into our healthcare system? Time will tell, right?

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