Telemedicine Helps in Rural Rwanda

VSee http://vsee.com a U.S based video conferencing company specializing in telemedicine was created to overcome the limitations of traditional video conferencing and develop tools to help provide telemedicine to rural parts of the world. In one of their latest projects, VSee has been using telemedicine technologies to bring Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist care to rural Rwanda.

Rwanda is one of 53 countries with a critical shortage of health workers. For a population of nearly 10 million, there is only one doctor for every 18,000 inhabitants and one nurse for 1,476 inhabitants according to the Ministry of Health in Rwanda www.moh.gov.rw. Also, 87 percent of the population live in rural areas while specialist healthcare is located primarily in the teaching and referral hospitals in the capital city Kigali.

However, Rwanda with their universal 3G and widespread 4G fiber internet system is uniquely positioned to benefit from the use of telemedicine platforms. Telemedicine is able to offer otology advice services that can save patients unnecessary journeys to Kigali and will help to make more efficient use of specialist services.

The use of telehealth and telemedicine is being spearheaded by Joseph Lune Ngenzi a certified telehealth expert and coordinator of E-Health at the University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences www.ur.ac.rw. .

Ngenzi and a team of doctors decided to use VSee to conduct remote ENT consultation field tests during a one day ear camp organized by the Starkey Hearing Foundation www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org.

Before the field test, Dr. Rob Daniels, a general practitioner in the UK from the Townsend House Medical Centre www.townsendhousesurgery.co.uk received a 30 minute training session on how to use the VSee digital otoscope to photograph a patient’s eardrum. He then used the VSee technology to relay the patient’s history and to share the image of the eardrum with doctors at the Central Hospital of the University of Kigali.

So far, ENT specialists from the Kigali Teaching Hospital have correctly diagnosed nine out of ten ENT cases at a rural ear clinic using VSee’s telemedicine platform. After the team of doctors successfully test the digital otoscope for a distant diagnosis, they plan to start rolling out the system in 2016 to rural health facilities to use for continuing professional development, remote clinical consultations, and to train more ENT residents.

 

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