ZIMBABWE’S healthcare providers have been urged to embrace technology which would help them provide telehealth services following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This comes as face-to-face meetings and gatherings are now generally discouraged by the World Health Organisation protocols on combating the spread of the virus.
It also comes as the lockdowns imposed by the government have also restricted the free movement of people.
It is in this regard that most participants during a well-subscribed webinar hosted by the Daily News in partnership with Public Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) which looked at challenges healthcare funders have faced during this pandemic called for the sector to embrace technology.
The virtual event was graced by representatives from Psmas, Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (Ahfoz), Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) and the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH).
Psmas director managed health services Nixon Mapesa said there was need to re-imagine new ways of conducting businesses during the pandemic for health care institutions to remain relevant.
In other developed countries, doctors are now conducting consultations via live video teleconferencing and other virtual platforms with patients far away.
Mobile applications have also been developed in which patients can get medical assistance from a doctor just by logging on.
“This is something that really needs to be embraced as it not only brings convenience for the people but also for the provider. It brings a new way of doing things that reduces costs in terms of overheads,” Mapesa said.
“It is something that as healthcare funders we need to embrace very fast and as providers we need to make it a normal way of doing business. Our people need to be capacitated to be able to deal with telemedicine and telemedical services.
“We are looking at introduction and socialisation digital delivery channels like telemedicine, teleradiology to track people’s health, self-service portals taking the service to the customer through drug deliveries and home visits or consultations.”
Ahfoz chief executive officer Shylet Sanyanga noted that there was also reluctance on the part of patients to seek medical services because of fear of the pandemic.
“The healthcare sector should embrace telemedicine. It will go a long way in ensuring there are no gaps in health service delivery and strengthen home-care services to ensure chronic conditions are well monitored,” Sanyanga said.
“Patients deferred accessing health care services because they feared ending up contracting Covid-19 because of that fear there was a general decline in utilisation patterns except for emergencies and chronic cases who continued accessing their medicines from the pharmacies. In fact, home visits were on the increase before Covid-19 it was not very common to have health care providers visiting patients at their homes. We saw a new practice of healthcare providers going to homes of patients and consult them there it’s a new and good practice.”