The Ministry of Health has launched a telemedicine project at Shyira Hospital in Nyabihu District, that’s expected to help reduce costs spent on patients transferred to referral hospitals, reduce face-to-face training for doctors and cut transport costs for patients.
Telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunication technology.
Speaking at the launch on Wednesday, Dr Innocent Turate, the Head of HIV and other infectious diseases control department at Rwanda Biomedical Center, said: “The technology will enable doctors to ask second opinion from experts in other hospitals such as CHUK, King Faisal or abroad.”
He explained that doctors would be able to benefit from training and mentorship that can be provided by specialists outside the country or in other parts of the country.
“The strategy is to use ICT to reduce costs in the health sector. When we talk about smart cities, we also talk about smart hospitals, using ICT to accelerate services,” he said.
He added that efforts are being made to ensure availability of the internet in the area. Currently Shyira Hospital doctors training in telemedicine are using 4G internet but the engineer at the hospital said weather issues also interrupt communication with specialists abroad through video link.
The telemedicine services will also soon include surgery services, Turate added.
Gregoire Bakunzi, the president of Rotary Club Musanze, said the support is a result of a partnership between Rotary Club and Global Offsite Care, an organisation that’s based in California, which provided equipment, technicians and a doctor for mentoring.
Dr Theoneste Rubanzabigwi, the hospital’s director, said the new technology will help doctors handle patients with complications since they will have room for patients in critical conditions in need of quick interventions.
He said the project is connected to 64 medical specialists across the world who treat different diseases and from whom Rwandan doctors can seek mentorship.
“We are yet to have enough medical experts in Rwanda. Local doctors need more training and to learn more from more senior doctors and, therefore, this project will help get such training without necessarily face-to face-session,” he said.
He added that every Wednesday, doctors at Shyira Hospital meet counterparts from other hospitals in Rwanda and beyond via telemedicine in a bid to acquire more skills.’.
Shyira Hospital medics interact with specialists from Nigeria, US, Congo, Uganda, among others.