Cameroon mobilises telemedicine amid COVID-19 scare
Cameroon plans to fast-track the integration of ICT to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Yaounde on 25 June 2020, the country’s Prime Minister Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute said there is an urgency to adopt digital technologies to bolster the country’s healthcare capability.
At the same time, medical personnel believe fear is resulting in fewer people turning up at facilities to seek medical attention.
Foy Ivo Stanley Fung, a final-year medical student interning in Kumba, told a Cameroon town hall meeting for healthcare professionals on 20 June that the number of patients visiting hospitals had more than halved.
Several medical establishments like Unite for Health are deploying ICT to strengthen their ability to diagnose and offer treatment.
These facilities use mobile devices to run checks on patients to monitor their progress, communicate in real-time to remind patients about appointments, screenings and prenatal care.
Ndansi Elvis Nukam, Founder and President of Unite for Health, says e-consultation is possible because many more people have mobile phones.
Following improvements in ICT development and affordability, mobile subscription in Cameroon has risen to over 18.8 million, representing a penetration rate of 83%, according to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Internet penetration stands at 35%.
Ndansi said telemedicine is already helping Unite for Health provide specialised healthcare to patients. “For at-risk cardiac patients, new diagnostic tools like the CardioPad can record a patient’s electrocardiogram (EKG) which we send to top cardiologists for remote advice on treatment.”
Ndansi believes the more people are connected to the internet, the wider the community that their health facilities can serve, especially in these extremely challenging times. “Our hope for telemedicine is that it helps us to keep moving forward in improving public health, especially, of course, for mothers and their children.”
Recently, Cameroon adopted a five-year Strategic Plan for Digital Health, to run from 2020 to 2024. Some 11,327,570,000 CFA francs (US$19,037,933), budget of the plan, will be invested in different areas to include services and applications, standards and interoperability, infrastructure, legislation, policy and compliance.
The global telemedicine market was valued at US$29.6 billion in 2017 and it is expected to develop at a compound annual growth rate of 19 % until 2022, according to the Global Telemedicine Market Outlook 2020 research report.