Where Technology and Medicine Meet in Rural Zambia
When health officer Kennedy Mulenga was faced with a male patient developing breasts at the remote Ngwerere Clinic 30km north of the Zambian capital, Lusaka, he logged onto Virtual Doctors to get help solving the medical mystery.
After taking notes and creating a patient file he took a photo with the camera in his computer and then uploaded all the information to the Internet cloud.
A UK-based doctor then reviewed the file and offered diagnostic advice: the HIV-positive patient was experiencing gynecomastia, the swelling of breast tissue and a side effect of antiretroviral medicine, but was in no danger.
Virtual Doctors uses so-called telemedicine software to improve local primary healthcare in rural areas lacking doctors. It was started by former safari guide Huw Jones, now based in the UK developing the technology.
“It’s really very simple to do and I’m surprised there’s not more of it,” 45-year-old Jones told IPS. “There’s lots of research it seems but not so much action, and so we went for it—this is the intersection between technology and medicine.”
Zambia has roughly 1,600 doctors for a population of about 14 million, of whom about 9 million live rurally, and relies heavily on remote healthcare workers like Mulenga. He has worked for six years at Ngwerere Clinic, using Virtual Doctors for three years.
- Health Care