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Malawi partners UK in telemedicine initiative to fight COVID-19

By , Media and Communication Consultant
Malawi , 23 Apr 2020
Telekom Networks Malawi and UK-based Virtual Doctors have launched an online health platform to tackle COVID-19.
Telekom Networks Malawi and UK-based Virtual Doctors have launched an online health platform to tackle COVID-19.

Malawi's ministry of health, in collaboration with Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) and UK-based organisation Virtual Doctors, has launched an online health platform to address the shortage of doctors within the country’s strained health sector.

The sector continues to struggle to meet the needs of 18 million people, now compounded by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

UK-based not-for-profit organisation Virtual Doctors has partnered with TNM to position a bespoke smartphone application to connect health specialists in Malawi’s rural areas with specialists in the UK to receive advice on diagnosis and treatment.

As per the agreement, Virtual Doctors will provide the application platform, training toolkit and access to the volunteer doctors, while TNM will provide network access, source communication devices required by local health workers and provide support for the project.

TNM Brand and Communications Manager Limbani Nsapato said the training toolkit includes a smartphone or tablet gadget along with information on how to use the application to facilitate vital exchanges.

Virtual Doctors Executive Director Huw Jones said: “The Virtual Doctors project connects isolated health centres in rural Malawi with volunteer doctors based predominantly in the United Kingdom using a bespoke smartphone application.”

Jones explained that where a rural health worker has encountered cases requiring directions from a specialist, they enter a patient's symptoms, and if need be, along with relevant pictures into the application, which is sent electronically, to a volunteer doctor who helps by making correct diagnosis and offer advice on appropriate treatment options.

TNM would not divulge how many mobile devices would be provided or the cost of its contribution to the project.

During the pilot phase of the initiative undertaken in July 2019, TNM provided five doctors with mobile connectivity and contributed US$4,500 towards the project.

CEO Michiel Buitelaar said in collaboration with the ministry of health, the company is also sending COVID-19 precautions and other related advisory SMS awareness messaging to over 3.6 million subscribers.

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