THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) is set to spearhead a countrywide Telemedicine initiative in a bid to enhance health research and improve access to health services.
By Michael Gwarisa
Speaking at the launch of the ICT access and use by households and educational institutions reports, POTRAZ Director General, Dr Gift Machengete said the move to spread the Telemedicine project to other parts of the country has been inspired by a Telemedicine project which they successfully piloted in Manicaland Province.
“Studies have shown that ICTs have immense benefits if they are channeled to the health delivery system. ICTs play a critical role in the dissemination of healthcare information through timely alerting people on major health threats for example, during the recent cholera outbreaks, social media was an effective tool in spreading information in combating the Cholera epidemic that had hit the country.
“ICTs can also be used in remote consultation where diagnosis and treatment can be done through telemedicine and as POTRAZ; we have the telemedicine pilot project covering Manicaland Province and we would want the project to be rolled out full scale across the whole country,” said Dr Machengete.
He added that Telemedicine enables Health workers to collaborate, cooperate and share learning and training information.
“Additionally the use of ICTs enhances health research and the dissemination and access to research findings, which brings convenience and efficiency in the health sector.”
Telemedicine is an ICT-based health care model, which can be used as a tool for providing specialist medical attention to patients in any type of medical institution, especially remote rural areas with marginal or no power or telephone connection, using off-site specialists.
This model, which is being promoted in Zimbabwe and most other African countries aims to identify and co-ordinate the use of technology for improved access to and promoting efficient delivery of cost-effective public health care systems.
POTRAZ early this year confirmed that the telecommunications board had already set up equipment in 14 clinics, 2 district hospitals and one Provincial Hospital in Manicaland as a pilot project.
Meanwhile, growth in uptake of Telemedicine services is hinged on the growth in usage of data and internet services in Zimbabwe. According to POTRAZ’s Third Quarter Sector performance results, mobile internet and data utilisation increased by 21.1% to record 7,395TB from 6,104TB recorded in the second quarter of 2018. Social media continued to drive mobile data usage with WhatsApp bundles constituting 32% of total mobile data usage.
At 18,719TB, mobile internet and data consumption from January to September 2018 has already exceeded 15,361TB consumed in 2017