Africa Analysis: Getting telemedicine informed consent

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Telemedicine could boost healthcare in rural Africa, but it has informed consent challenges, writes Linda Nordling.

Telemedicine — the use of communication technologies such as email, mobile phones or video conferencing to deliver healthcare to remote or poor areas — holds great benefits for Africa.

On the face of it, telemedicine advances should mean cheaper and better medical care for patients in remote or poor areas. For instance, video calls would allow patients in rural clinics to ‘see’ distant specialists without either party needing to travel.

However, although the technological basis of telemedicine is well established, with mobile networks now reaching the majority of the continent’s inhabitants, its roll-out poses challenges across Africa.

A key challenge is protecting patients’ right to give informed consent to the consultation and treatments, as well as understand how their personal medical data will be treated. This is important from the doctor’s perspective as well, as it is a safeguard against liability.

However, informed consent is tricky when it comes to telemedicine, as new research from South Africa shows. [1] New ways of obtaining such consent need to be explored in order to safely roll out telemedicine across Africa.

Source: SciDev.Net (link opens in a new window)

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