Telemedicine and primary health: The virtual doctor project Zambia

Evans Mupela, Paul Mustard & Huw Jones

#2011-002

This paper is a commentary on a project application of telemedicine to alleviate primary health care problems in Lundazi district in the Eastern province of Zambia. The project dubbed '"The Virtual Doctor Project' will use hard body vehicles fitted with satellite communication devices and modern medical equipment to deliver primary health care services to some of the neediest areas of the country. The relevance and importance of the project lies in the fact that these areas are hard-to-reach due to rugged natural terrain and have very limited telecommunications infrastructure. The lack of these and other basic services makes it difficult for medical personnel to settle in these areas, which leads to an acute shortage of medical personnel. The paper presents this problem and how it is addressed by 'The Virtual Doctor Project', emphasizing that while the telemedicine concept is not new in sub-Saharan Africa, the combination of mobility and connectivity to service a number of villages 'on the go' is an important variation in the shift back to the 1978 Alma Ata principles of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

This overview of the Virtual Doctor Project in Zambia provides insight into both the potential for ICT, and the problems and limitations that any 'real-world' articulation of this technology must confront.

Key Words: Telemedicine, Satellite, Primary health, Alma Ata

JEL Classification: O25, 041, O43, O47, F15, F43

  


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