Clinical officers use mobile phones to take pictures and notes of patients in remote areas of Tanzania. The information on complex medical cases can be shared with specialists from Dar es Salaam and abroad via the iPath telemedicine platform. Specialists view the information and provide advice remotely.
Kesanta works at the Ilembula Lutheran Hospital and frequently visits people on location in the isolated Iringa region. As a clinical officer he treats patients, but for complex medical cases he needs specialist advice. Kesanta gets this advice by using an online telemedicine platform called iPath. With this system, x-rays, photos of skin conditions and tissue samples and patient information can be sent to specialist doctors for consultation online. Recently Kesanta started to use his mobile phone to access the telemedicine platform.
Recently Kesanta encountered a three year old boy who suffered from malnutrition and had a large infection (a hole in his cheek). The clinical officer used his phone to take a picture of the infection and uploaded this with patient information to the telemedicine platform. A specialist doctor in Dar es Salaam saw the case and advised Kesanta how to treat the infection and what medicine to prescribe. Now the boy’s cheek is healing without him having to travel to the city or having to pay extra for specialist treatment.
Although computers can also be used to upload cases, Kesanta prefers his mobile phone. “Network coverage is often too poor to use an office computer or laptop to upload our telemedicine cases. With a camera phone with GPRS connection, it is very simple to upload cases from anywhere. We discovered that a mobile phone can open the web program needed for telemedicine quite easily and fast.”
Telemedicine is supported by IICD in Tanzania. IICD’s partner the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania runs a chain of hospitals in Tanzania, including the Ilembula Lutheran Hospital.