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IKON Tele-radiology Program – Using The Internet To Mitigate Shortage Of Doctors In Rural Areas

by Felix Omondi

IKON Tele-radiology Program – Using The Internet To Mitigate Shortage Of Doctors In Rural Areas

In the last decade or so, Africa has witnessed increased internet bandwidth usage by up to 20-folds, largely attributed to the more than 68,000Km (42,253 miles) of submarine cables and 615,000Km (3821,42o miles) of national backbone networks. In a recent press briefing by Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in Africa was quoted saying “The internet and mobile phones are transforming the development landscape in Africa, injecting new dynamism in key sectors. The challenge is to scale up these innovations and success stories for greater social and economic impacts across Africa over the next decade”.

True to Jamal Saghir’s words, and as previously brought to you by Innov8tiv Magazine when we featured the Online Medical Surgery Training in East and South Africa. Today Innov8tiv Magazine takes yet another look at how Mali is cleverly employing the internet in bridging the gap between the rural less facilitated doctors with their urban counterparts who have better facilities for diagnosing and treating radiological patients through teleradiology; a practice broadly referred to as Telemedicine.

IKON Tele-radiology Program – Using The Internet To Bridge Lack Of Qualified Doctors In Rural Areas

Telemedicine has become so useful particularly in Africa where there is generally an overall scarcity of hospitals, specialists, equipments, nurses and quality medical education. In the case of Mali, all the radiologists are based in the capital of Bamako; this would therefore mean that all patients in need of radiologist diagnosis would have to travel to the capital, sometimes leading to the patients travelling more than 1,000Kms from the regional rural hospitals coming to the capital.

In 2002, Société Malienne d’Imagerie Médicale (SOMIM) through Dr. Mahamadou Touré approached the Dutch International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) in an attempt to solve this structural problems facing radiology in Mali. Dr. Touré had the proposal of possibly using the internet to bridge the rural-urban gap of specialist radiologist. Dr. Touré in partnership with a medical student named Romain-Rolland Tohouri came up with an innovative medical project that would achieve the following:

  • Create ICT awareness among hospital staff and the potential benefits that comes along with it.
  • Capacity building – this would require hospital staff to acquire general ICT skill, specifically the ICT4Health skills.
  • Cost reductions – significantly reducing cost for both the patients and the hospital. The patient would no longer be required to travel to Bamako while the local hospitals will be upgraded with required facilities thus relieving the pressure off the well established Bamako hospitals.
A rural based Hospital with Internet access

A rural based Hospital with Internet access

The IKON Tele-radiology Program now enables patients to visit their local (rural and readily available) hospitals where they can take their radiology scans, and the medical staff would then send them via the internet to the radiology specialists based in Bamako. The radiology specialist would then go over the sent document and administer a diagnosis and the appropriate treatment back to the rural-based hospital via the internet. This has proven to be fast and cheap means for the radiologist to operate, and favoring both the patient and the doctors as well.

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