Access to healthcare has been a challenge to many Kenyans, particularly those in remote areas which do not attract specialised doctors.
It is not uncommon to see people travelling for long distances to access quality healthcare, spending a lot of time and money in the process.
To help solve this problem, Dr
"While practising in different areas of the country over the years, I realised that the poorest people were the least favoured when it came to healthcare since most specialised doctors like cardiologists and radiologists are found in large towns or outside the country," she said.
For her, just as devolution is a response to counties that have been forgotten over the years, telemedicine is the answer to inaccessible quality healthcare.
Future of medicine
"Telemedicine is the future of medicine because it provides you with access to quality healthcare at a distance with the use of video conferencing and peripheral diagnostic tools that a doctor would normally use in person," she explained.
If installed in several clinics, the Afya Telemedicine application allows them to interlink with one another and share limited human resource, making consulting doctors easily accessible.
A hospital or clinic in which the application is installed requires to make an initial investment in teleconferencing facilities and simple equipment that can help to digitally relay information and diagnostic tests to a medic from a distance.
A nurse or community health worker, trained to handle the equipment, can measure blood pressure, sugar levels, carry out x-rays and electrocardiograms as well as other vital readings and send them to a doctor electronically.
"It is not just about feeding patients' records into the system and relaying them to the consulting doctor in real-time, the doctor is able to see if there are any physical symptoms through video conferencing, ask more personal questions and make an immediate diagnosis," said Dr Obwaka.
The system, she said, is simple to use. People without prior technological knowledge can learn to use it within a week of training.
Because the company does not have health facilities of its own, it partners with hospitals and medical associations who use the application to offer better care to patients.
"We have our database of specialised doctors within the country and some who consult for us in
The doctor is able to make a diagnosis and prescribe drugs, while the nurse or health worker can monitor the prescription and progress of the patient to recommend if any follow-up conferences are required.
The number of Kenyans seeking medical treatment in
Dr Obwaka said that using Afya Telemedicine doctors in
Unlike other forms of video conferencing the application allows relayed medical information of patients to be stored in the system and even printed, making it easy to trace patients' medical history when they make folow-up visits or use the system to consult another specialist.
The main challenge for the uptake of the application, especially among public health facilities where the need has been high, is the initial investment costs estimated to be about Sh534,000.
It also requires a stable internet connection during video conferencing, which can be made available to remote parts by use of portable devices.
"It is a very big investment and some of the hospitals cannot afford it, but if you look at long term benefits it is a worthy sacrifice. We are looking at partnering with the government and various development partners to bring down costs, especially in areas where the need is greatest," she said.
The company is also seeking to partner with pharmacies to enable patients talk to doctors for prescriptions and reduce instances of misdiagnosis or self medication.
"If Rwanda can do it, why can't we also modernise our healthcare system? Ultimately we want to see a version of the application used to deliver even more personalised treatment," she said.
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