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Zimbabwe slowly embraces telemedicine services in response to COVID-19

By our journalist-in-residence Lungelo Ndhlovu.

22-12-21

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Telemedicine allows patients to communicate with healthcare providers through technology. Thanks to telemedicine they can discuss medical issues and ask for advice, as opposed to physically going to hospitals, where they’re offered integrated family health care services. However, due to the digital divide, Zimbabwe is slowly embracing the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) amid calls from health workers urging authorities to implement tele-health and make it user-friendly.

Dr Norman Matara, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) Secretary General, said with most people failing to access quality health care and accurate information on diseases, telemedicine could bridge that gap. “Telemedicine is something we have been pushing for. There was a bit of resistance from our governing bodies in the medical sector to introduce telemedicine before COVID-19, but with the coming of the COVID-19 pandemic, I think they now saw that there is a very big role for telemedicine to play. They started to appreciate it and the sector allowed us access to telemedicine. This is something we need to invest in”, he said.

Dr Matara noted that there was a trial held in Nyanga Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe, which proved to be successful in offering telemedicine services to rural communities. “People in rural areas need specialist services, but yet they cannot access them because there are no specialists in the rural areas. With telemedicine, we can solve that problem. It has a very huge role to play in improving access to healthcare”, said the clinician.

In its 2012 -2017 Zimbabwe’s E-Health Strategy Draft, the Ministry of Health and Child Care stated one of its visions was to have quality, timely and accessible health information for every Zimbabwean on an integrated platform.

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