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Embrace telehealth — health service providers, practitioners urged

The Chronicle

Leonard Ncube , Victoria Falls Reporter
HEALTH service providers and practitioners should embrace telehealth to enhance access to primary healthcare to citizens, especially in remote areas.

This came out at the ongoing Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) annual conference which is being held here.

Vice-President General (Retired) Costantino Chiwenga, who is also Health and Child Care Minister is expected to officially open the conference this morning.

Participants yesterday said both health service providers and practitioners should embrace telehealth, also called telemedicine or virtual online consulting.

Presenting on the use of telehealth facilities and lessons learnt, Dr Katlego Mothudi who is managing director for the board of Healthcare Funders in South Africa, said remote consulting and diagnosis is key in improving primary healthcare.

He said while Covid-19 intensified the need for remote healthcare provision, the pandemic should not be taken as the end to the need.

“Telehealth is mainly a tool for not just funders but practitioners as well to increase access to health. This was brought to the fore by Covid-19 but we should not look at the pandemic as the end to the need. Telehealth takes service to areas where it has not been there before, being able to transport health service to patients in rural areas as service is done remotely.

“It even helps doctor-to-doctor consultations as they get expert opinion from colleagues elsewhere which will ultimately reduce the need for people to travel long distances in search of specialist care,” said Dr Mothudi.

He said adopting online health services will address issues of skewed doctor or nurse-patient ratio where there is currently notable shortage of health practitioners.

Speaking virtually, International Federation of Health Plans chair Ms Nicola Jedrej said some countries have since adopted the new normal but there is need to assure patients that they will still get satisfactory service.

AHFoZ chief executive Mrs Shylet Sanyanga implored health regulators to ensure there are regulations to enforce ethical considerations and protect clients.

“In using virtual platforms for consultations there are always errors hence there is need for the regulators to ensure there are guidelines governing virtual consultations,” she said.

Participants are drawn from a cross-section of stakeholders in the healthcare supply chain, with some following proceedings online.

The theme for the annual conference is: “Pandemic, Panic, Leapfrogging and Transformation.’’

Focus is on taking stock of the impact of Covid-19, the lessons learnt and also share ideas on how to build on the lessons learnt in order to re-establish a robust healthcare system in the wake of effects of Covid-19.

Speakers will be from the industry, Government, South Africa and United Kingdom.

AHFoZ will this afternoon make a donation to a children’s home in Victoria Falls as part of the organisation’s corporate social responsibility. — @ncubeleon

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