Could COVID-19 accelerate the use of Telemedicine in Africa?
Join us for a 60-minute Twitter chat to share your views about how the COVID-19 outbreak could accelerate the use of telemedicine in Africa using the hashtag #hcsmSA. All stakeholders including startups, healthcare providers, patients, NGO’s, policymakers, payers, journalists, educators and students etc. locally and globally are welcome. The public transcript will be recorded by Symplur.
T1: How do you think telemedicine can make a difference to healthcare?
T2: What have been the greatest hurdles to Africa implementing telemedicine in the past?
T3: Even if telemedicine is widely accepted, what barriers do you think we still need to overcome?
(e.g. language barriers, connectivity, disabilities or sharing our private medical history electronically)
T4: What issues do you feel exist when it comes to global telemedicine platforms in Africa?
(e.g. different demographic prescribing guidelines or privacy legislation like the POPI Act)
T5: Was there a time when you think telemedicine might have helped you, a friend or family member?
CT: (Closing Thoughts): Is there anything you feel is important to add to this conversation?
Start your answers with T1, T2, T3, T4, T5 or CT for transcript purposes
Answer only after the moderator prompts. Questions will be prompted every 8-10 minutes, but keep answers coming using the relevant T and number. Introduce yourself if you are joining. Use the #hcsmSA hashtag in all tweets so you are visible to others in the chat as well as on the Symplur transcript afterwards. Please also include any of the other COVID-19 hashtags which are trending in South Africa like #CoronaVirusSA and #COVID19SA.
Telehealth has been described as the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies. It allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions.  Well-designed telehealth schemes can improve health care access and outcomes, particularly for chronic disease treatment and for vulnerable groups. Not only do they reduce demands on crowded facilities, but they also create cost savings and make the health sector more resilient. 
The HPCSA which acts as the regulatory authority for the health sector in South Africa had published guidelines for the practice and use of telemedicine. Booklet 10 of the HPCSA Guidelines provides the ethical framework for which such virtual services must be conducted in,  however, because of the recent COVID-19 outbreak the HPCSA has agreed to temporarily accommodate both public and private healthcare providers to reduce the need for face-to-face consultations which puts both of them at a higher risk of exposure to this deadly disease. 
There are multiple barriers which impact the use of telemedicine in South Africa which include digital literacy, access to ICT’s and other digital divides, gender equality, poverty and concerns around cyber and personal medical information protection.  Further to this, the limitation of a doctor not being able to physically examine a patient or perform diagnostics has been of concern. For example, in a recent study, it was reported that direct-to-consumer telemedicine visits for children with Acute Respiratory Infections (ARIs) were more likely to receive antibiotics and less likely to receive guideline-concordant antibiotic management compared to children at primary care physician visits and urgent care visits. The increased use of antibiotics, in this case, is of concern to bacterial resistance, therefore, solutions to e-Prescribing should be carefully considered.
As a patient who underwent multiple facial surgeries after a car accident in 2004 that resulted in a fatal antibiotic-resistant infection that nearly cost my face and life and having my patient journey turned around by a 30-minute video consultation in 2011 because of a craniofacial surgeon called Dr Edward J. Caterson at the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, I am excited to see that telemedicine may finally be implemented in South African. Dr Caterson couldn’t physically examine me, but from my medical records, he had enough information to advise what types of doctors and surgeries I required. After a few different consultations in Johannesburg, the doctor that mimicked him was a highly respected professor. South Africa had a shortage of specialists like Dr Caterson, therefore having the ability to receive direction from him in the USA made it possible for me to make more informed and careful decisions which resulted in fewer complications. This technology is long overdue and hopefully, after COVID-19 more is done to implement it.
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- The chat runs for 60 minutes, but you can join in at any time.
- Start answers with the relevant T’s and number for transcript purposes.
- Answer each question after the moderator prompts but keep answers coming even if we move onto the next one. We don’t want to miss out on your views!
- Both panel experts and attendees are invited to participate because everyone’s perspective counts.
- Use the hashtag (#hcsmSA) in all of your tweets or you won’t be visible in the chat.
- More information about how to participate in a Twitter chat can be read here