News / Health

    Are Virtual Doctors the Answer for Ugandan Health Care?

    Rosemary Napeyok (right) in the Nadunget Health Center, located in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda, consults a doctor in Kampala over Skype, March 3, 2014. (Hilary Heuler for VOA News)
    Rosemary Napeyok (right) in the Nadunget Health Center, located in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda, consults a doctor in Kampala over Skype, March 3, 2014. (Hilary Heuler for VOA News)
    A new telemedicine facility in one of the most remote regions of Uganda allows local health care workers to consult online with doctors in Kampala. The potential for Uganda’s poorly-staffed health centers could be huge.

    At Nadunget Health Center in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda, dozens of patients wait stoically for their turn to see a nurse. Rosemary Napeyok, head of the facility, leads a team of nurses and midwives who serve about 25,000 people in the area. Most illnesses, she explains, are fairly straightforward.

    “The major conditions we treat here are malaria, respiratory tract infections and gastrointestinal infections. We also get a few cases of viral infections, like right now there is an outbreak of hepatitis,” she said.

    But not all cases are so simple, and like all health centers in Karamoja, Nadunget has no doctor. Advanced stages of AIDS, severe malaria and more obscure diseases often baffle the nurses. Standard procedure is to send such patients to the referral hospital in the town of Moroto, 10 kilometers away.

    A small antenna on the roof of Nadunget Health Center connects health care workers to the internet, and to doctors in Kampala, March 3, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)A small antenna on the roof of Nadunget Health Center connects health care workers to the internet, and to doctors in Kampala, March 3, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
    x
    A small antenna on the roof of Nadunget Health Center connects health care workers to the internet, and to doctors in Kampala, March 3, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
    A small antenna on the roof of Nadunget Health Center connects health care workers to the internet, and to doctors in Kampala, March 3, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
    But, Napeyou says, the roads are terrible, transport is often lacking and even the referral hospital has only two doctors.

    “Even sometimes phone calls become a challenge. The whole weekend there was no network. So if you have no transport here there is no way you can reach the next person who can help you to have the patient referred to the referral hospital,” she said.

    But thanks to a brand-new satellite Internet connection, consulting a doctor has just become much easier.

    A simple call over Skype, a free software, is often enough to clear up any doubts in the nurses’ minds.

    Godfrey Bampiiga works for UNICEF, which set up the connection to pilot the concept of telemedicine. He explains that the computers the health center uses run on solar power, important in a region almost completely off the electric grid.

    “These are small but robust computers, very nice, cost effective. You just have to turn it to face where the patient is, you adjust, and the doctor is able to see exactly how the patient is doing,” he said.  

    UNICEF’s Rebecca Kwagala adds that Skype conference calls can make a big difference as well.

    “If you call for a meeting and they have to close the health facility, then there will be no one to give services to the community. With this it can also be used for meetings and also trainings. People don’t have to move,” she said.

    On the other end of the line are doctors like John Mark Bwanika, director of a Kampala call center staffed 24 hours by doctors and pharmacists. Although Nadunget is the only public health center using the Skype system so far, Bwanika says he sees a lot of potential for expansion in the north, east and far west of the country.

    “These are regions that are probably farthest from the possible training centers. It would mean that the staff there would have to travel long distances to attain any form of training. The doctor and pharmacist coverage in those areas is also the most wanting in Uganda - regions of the country which are at the bottom of the pyramid in terms of health services,” said Bwanika.

    Over time, speaking regularly to a doctor actually builds up the knowledge and capacity of the nurses themselves, says Bwanika.

    “What we’ve seen is that once they learn things like that from a doctor or a qualified pharmacist, these are skills or knowledge that they will actually carry on, and next time they probably won’t need to consult on that and they will just do the right thing,” he said.

    Uganda’s health care system is not growing as fast as its population, he adds. The future health of Ugandans, says Bwanika, may depend on modern technology to fill in the gaps.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.