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Governments asked to develop framework to streamline telemedicine

Governments across Africa have been asked to collaborate and develop a regulatory framework for telemedicine to rein in unscrupulous medical personnel fleecing unsuspecting patients.

Africa Health Business Executive Chairman Amit Thakker said lack of regulations has seen innocent patients overcharged while others have lost money.

This, he said, was a setback to the program which has huge potential in enhancing access to quality medical care across the continent.

Dr Thakker said the regulations were necessary to stipulate the framework for the facilities and practitioners to ensure that those seeking services get value for their money.

“When a patient in Kenya is consulting a doctor in India online for example and is charged, is the fee legal? What if he develops complications? These are some of the concerns that these regulations must address,” he said.

The regulations, he added, will unlock the sector and open up barriers to ensure that 1.3 billion people on the globe have access to quality medical care at the click of a button.

Speaking at Mama Grace Onyango Social Centre in Kisumu during the Digital Health in Africa Conference, Dr Thakker underscored the potential of technology in health calling for its full adoption to transform the sector.

He challenged African governments to embrace digital technology in the health sector to enhance efficiency and access to quality medical care.

Digital health, he said, was the next frontier in the sector with the potential of addressing existing shortfalls to help African states attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

He challenged health departments to embrace digital technology in procurement to curb pilferage of public resources.

“The Covid-19 pandemic taught us so many lessons where a lot of money was lost in procurement,” he said.

By the use of mobile applications and online digital platforms, he added, a lot of time and money shall be saved with transparency upheld at all the levels of the supply chain.

This, he said, will restore donor and investor confidence to help boost health coverage on the continent.

“Right now people fear investing their dollars in the sector because they will dissipate,” he said.

With advancements in technology, he said, African governments now have an opportunity to tap into the Sh256 billion digital health sector to improve services and enhance access to quality medical care.

Over 1, 500 digital health startups, he disclosed, have expressed interest in increasing their footprints on the continent adding that the move was set to create 16 million jobs over the next five years.

Nigeria and South Africa, he disclosed, had the highest number of digital health startups on the continent with Kenya and Egypt following closely.

This, he added, will put the African continent at position two in the global digital health business controlling a 14% stake after the United States of America (USA) which controls 21%.

By Chris Mahandara

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