POTRAZ, the local telecoms regulator signed a $300,000 agreement with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that will facilitate the introduction of telemedicine services in 2016 for rural clinics and hospitals.
Starting in January, remote public health facilities will be accessing telemedicine facilities that include online diagnosis, remote consultation for specific conditions, communication of information such as broadcasting of alerts and updates on potential outbreaks.
In a report carried by the ZBC, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, Eng. Sam Kundishora highlighted how the Ministry of ICT would be working with the ITU to craft electronic health sector regulations.
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This marks the first direct involvement by POTRAZ in telemedicine and e-health, with the guideline set through new regulations likely to create clarity on the extent to which technology can be harnessed for health care delivery. It could also help shed light on grey areas where bodies in health services have had issues with telemedicine.
The telemedicine sector has been an are of interest for some telecoms operators. Econet has made the most visible investment in this area, with its Econet Health services division working on products such as SMS-based alerts, connected health service technology, mobile health tips and dial-a-doctor services.
NetOne. one of the state’s mobile telecoms operators has also expressed an interest in e-health and in the first half of this year was reportedly piloting an eHealth service that would be supported by its LTE rollout and network upgrade.
However, these two players are just scratching the surface. A tremendous amount of work can be accomplished when health services engage technology to ease service delivery.
Technology in this sector can be harnessed for other areas like health insurance, research and analytics and specific resource deployment that can improve sector performance and resource management at a national level.
Third party service providers that can come up with solutions that aid public and private health service deliverers stand a chance to activate the use of latent resources in broadband and telecoms.
Granted, other factors need to be ironed out, especially on the technology deployment side of things, but an acknowledgment from both the public and private sector, together with regulatory structures could mean easier path for anyone willing to invest in this field.