KAMPALA, Uganda – On 15th May, Nakasero Hospital hosted a telemedicine webinar to discuss what experts around the world have called the “pandemic benefit.”
According to Medscape, “telemedicine involves the diagnosis and treatment of patients through telecommunications technology. It is a subset of telehealth, which includes other types of technology-enabled care, such as promoting health and wellness, remote patient monitoring, provider-to-provider remote communication, and mobile health.”
The Webinar featured some of Nakasero’s finest consultants, including Dr. Robert Busingye, (Obs and Gyn), Dr. Simon Luzige, the Ag. CEO (Physician and Pulmonogist), Dr. Kenneth Luzinda (Physician), Dr. Dickson Tumusiime (Pediatrician and Neonatologist) and Julius Mugisha, the Manager, Marketing, Communications and Client Experience. The webinar was moderated by Dr. Mamello Muhanuuzi, the Ag. Head of Medical Services, Nakasero Hospital.
The idea of telemedicine was founded upon the need to reach patients in remote areas with a few doctors. However, due to the impact of the pandemic on health care systems around the world, telemedicine has gained prominence for it’s potential to be transformative in regards to faster diagnosis and treatment.
In Uganda, interest in the practice of telemedicine is scaling upwards and medical institutions are contemplating ways of incorporating it in their routine.
From a client experience stand point, Mugisha highlighted that the hospital has started rolling out telemedicine and the “the appetite for it is there. However, there is a need for a mindset change from the population on considering phone calls as consultations.”
However, questions of it’s practicality lingered. Dr. Tumusiime assured the virtual audience that it is indeed possible and the tools needed to make it work are fairly available.
“You need to incorporate different forms of media in form of text, video and photos in order to make a better consultation,” Dr. Tumusiime said in regard to improving accuracy of a diagnosis.
On the other hand Dr. Busingye highlighted that while doctors, clinicians and nurses agree that the technology is useful, there is need for regulatory guidance on high risk and low risk usage of the technology.
“It needs to be formalized and the organization should take center stage in enforcing that change,” Dr. Busingye said. “The regulators should take note and regulate telemedicine in a way that spells out the expectations of both the doctor and the patient to avoid possible legal issues. The population should be educated on when to go to telemedicine and when not to.”
Dr. Luzinda agreed that there is a need for formalization and building the infrastructure necessary to effect the practice.
The webinar also hosted, Dr. Katumba Sentongo, the registrar of the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council. Sharing from the regulators side, he offered that telemedicine is the future. However, he added that there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding it and we need to establish clarity around issues like subscriptions.
Furthermore, he suggested that the question of “who is responsible for the diagnosis in telemedicine needs to be addressed.”
To close the discussion, the audience turned their attention to Dr. Davis Musinguzi who many recognize as the pioneer of telemedicine in Uganda. Dr. Musinguzi is the Managing Director of the Medical Concierge Group (TCMG), a digital health company with a portfolio of innovative ventures in medical call centers, healthcare enterprise software, and connected medical devices.
According to Dr. Musinguzi, there are plenty of opportunities to deliver affordable healthcare in telemedicine and it requires a lot of collaboration so we need more players involved.
He warned that, we must stay well within the standards of care in all spheres, from ethics to licenses. Further he shared guidance that the International Standards Organization spells out a list of guidelines that provide a blueprint in how we should implement telemedicine in Uganda.
“We are willing to make a contribution to guidelines,” he said.
For his part, Dr. Luzige highlighted concern over critical issues like privacy, security and hacking.
“There is a huge gap in regard to regulating telemedicine,” he added.
The well reviewed webinar attracted over 70 people from the health and IT community. Dr. Mamello assured the audience that another webinar on the subject will be held soon.