UK virtual doctors pilot telemedicine with TNM in Malawi

Virtual Doctors (VDrs) of the United Kingdom have commended TNM Plc, for supporting the pilot phase of the Telemedicine project being implemented in Lilongwe helping people from rural areas access specialist doctors.

Dr Simon Gazaley medical team leader
James Mathanga, Nsaru Health Centre clinical officier screena patient with Virtual Doctors device

Telemedicine which is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology, is being piloted by six virtual doctors in a pilot project that was initiated in 2018. The project has been running in Lilongwe rural.

Virtual Doctors Executive Director Huw Jones said the contribution from TNM in both cash and telecommunications support, will help the organization’s efforts of providing equitable access to high level of medical service for large and unreachable populations in the country, majority of them live in rural areas. The initial part of the pilot phase reached out to 100 cases.

“Our operations entirely rely on generosity from supporters and donors. The support we received from TNM adds kudos and credibility to what we are trying to achieve,” he said.

Jones further said the partnership with TNM accelerates the pace of Telemedicine expansion strategy.

“The effective implementation of Telemedicine depends on a number of technologies for its success, through the partnership TNM has reaffirmed its commitment of being an enabler of such projects. With the partnership, the simplicity and scalability of our service model means that we could expand our reach to make our service available to over 400,000 people in the short term,” he said.

Virtual Doctors is a UK-based charity that helps rural health workers in Africa to connect to doctors and medical specialists in the UK who respond with diagnosis and treatment advice, helping to save lives.

By providing sophisticated yet easy to use telemedicine software and up to date technology the charity has three clear helps reduce unnecessary mortality and morbidity by allowing rural health workers to treat more patients on-site, unnecessary referrals to distant and hard-to-reach hospital and improve the skills and knowledge of rural health workers.

During this pilot phase, TNM made a provision of mobile internet for five doctors to cater for connectivity. As a partner and also contributed $4,500 (an equivalent of Mk3,415,500.00) to facilitate logistics during this pilot by the Virtual Doctors Telemedicine Service in Malawi.

For his part TNM’s Head of Marketing, Sobhuza Ngwenya said TNM is committed to contribute to society by innovative connectivity solutions.

“The Malawi health sector remains one of the highly challenged sectors in the Malawi society. Mobility and accessibility affect the provision of improved service delivery to rural masses, where the majority of our fellow citizens live. As an integrated communications company, we felt obliged to support this telemedicine initiative to strengthen the reach of improved health services to all Malawians through our technology,” said Ngwenya.

“Whilst technology is a critical component of our work, one of our goals remains to apply this technology specifically as a catalyst in improving the well-being of all Malawians, the people that our network serves. As a Malawian company we continue to unveil solutions that can improve the delivery of social services including health care,” he said.

On his part, the Hospital Director for Kamuzu Central Hospital, Dr Jonathan Ngoma said that it is the wish of all Health practitioners to provide their services to all Malawians. “Sometimes we fail to reach the people because of distance and connectivity. Telemedicine is going to help us reach more people in the rural areas where specialist doctors are not present all the time,” said Dr Ngoma.

In the pilot phase which comes to an end in August 2019, Since the launch of our pilot, the Clinical Officers (COs) recipients have referred almost 100 cases which have been answered by a dedicated team of volunteer medical professionals – our “Virtual Doctors”. There has been a wide range of cases, calling on many of the medical specialties of our Virtual Doctors’ team.

Virtual Doctors telemedicine devices were deployed to users in Rural Health Centres (RHCs), located in Lemwe, Chiunjiza, Mbangomba, Ngoni, Ukwe, and Nsalu in Lilongwe District.

Major cases dealt with during the pilot phases centred general medicine, gynaecology, paediatrics, dermatology and infectious diseases.

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