Public private partnerships named as accelerating telemedicine in Africa

Telemedicine programmes could fast gather momentum in Africa if the governments partnered with the private sector to extend infrastructural development in the offgrid regions.

Analysts have now identified public private partnerships (PPPs) as a potential solution extension of telemedicine deployment in Africa’s remote regions. This is even as renewed focus on primary healthcare exists and the governments continue to roll out the national health insurance schemes.

Reports suggest uptake of telemedice solution continent-wide is on the rise given the accelerated pace of infrastructural developments and the need to broaden services to reach under-served regions.

An analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Telemedicine Markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, covering South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mali and Cameroon, shows telemedicine solutions encounter a number of challenges the greatest being inadequate connectivity in rural areas.

Frost & Sullivan’s analyst Ishe Zingoni says the government recognition of the significant role telemedicine plays in strengthening primary care will be key to its development.

“As the South African Government revamps the country’s healthcare system, strengthening the primary health system has been identified as a key priority to ensure the successful implementation of the NHI,” Zingoni said.

The looming shortage of doctors in the country’s remote regions is also of particular concern, a situation said to affect the delivery of effective healthcare across Africa.

Telemedicine according to the analyst, can serve to alleviate the poor doctor to patient ratio as it will employ telecommunications technology to deliver the healthcare services to the remote and under-served regions.

Issues of telecommunications, including inadequate connectivity and high cost, however, affect the operation of telemedicine in the remote areas.

Provision of broadband access in the areas is also named as a challenge as transmissions costs are high. According to Frost & Sullivan, innovative partnerships between the telcos and the government can however necessitate cost-effective telemedicine solutions.

Zingoni explained that despite the progress seen in telecommunications, especially from the infrastructural perspective, the cost of bandwidth are still high in South Africa as most of the infrastructure rolled out in the recent past have excluded the rural areas with the metropolitan areas being the major benefactors.

“The government could possibly partner with telecom companies to provide cost-effective healthcare solutions. For example, telecom operators could provide dedicated bandwidth for use in telemedicine projects,” AHIN quoted Zingoni as saying.

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