Hello, Doctor- Is Your Next Consultation Going to be From Your Living Room?
Healthcare systems are continuously going through change. Especially in the middle of this much dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. The difficulty for doctors to see patients directly has been pushed up a whole notch. And it brings about the big question of whether Telemedicine in Nigeria is the way forward from here on.
Well, Telemedicine itself was initially supposed to be for patients who lived so far away from health facilities. Or for the people who lived in places where you could say there was a drought of medical professionals.
But even in these modern times, it is still present. And it’s convenient for people who hate those long, grueling moments of waiting for a doctor spent at the reception.
Why the need for telemedicine in Nigeria?
It is no secret that COVID-19 has brought enough strain to healthcare delivery all around the world, since its arrival.
Healthcare systems have been forced to make a transformation in the way health services are being delivered. At the same time, they still try to ensure that patients are receiving good treatment.
Telemedicine in Nigeria seems to be a major solution to this challenge of maintaining the continuity in current patient care services. And possibly, it could even be the key to improving on them.
Just think of it.
Follow up check-ups with your surgeon could be so much easier. All you need to do is host a video call to run over post-surgery matters.
What is the importance of telemedicine?
Telemedicine is much needed because:
1. It can address panic symptoms.
Sometimes, people don’t necessarily have the Corona virus. Or any illness, for that matter.
Yet at the slightest health inconvenience, maybe on the grounds of a simple headache or fever, they rush straight for the hospital because of fear. In the process, they end up wasting valuable time, both theirs and the doctor’s.
This puts pressure on the limited healthcare resources in the country, like the hard to acquire test tools for Covid-19.
So in countries like Nigeria where even though the World Health Organization (WHO) itself has tried to relieve the fears and anxiety of Nigerians by encouraging them to call the hotlines provided, there needs to be an alternative means than going to the hospital. Especially when it could be a false alarm.
And frankly written, hospitals don’t seem to be the safest place to be anymore. Since some of them can be Covid-19 distributors.
You could go to the hospital for a checkup now and possibly end up contracting the very virus you’re running from. But with telemedicine, you can be attended to and guided on what to do.
At the same time, allowing you maintain social distancing.
2. There is quick virtual care on demand.
Telemedicine in Nigeria will ensure that this can happen by leveraging remote monitoring of patients to help keep track of all their symptoms. It will also train them in the art of self-administration.
This will happen with the virtual supervision of a trained medical professional.
There would also be the possibility of home delivered services, in case of emergencies. Imagine having to discuss your symptoms with your doctor on-screen without even having to shift a limb from your bed.
What are the challenges of telemedicine?
Like all things, Telemedicine in Nigeria definitely does have its downside. Much of it will greatly demand the healthcare providers to fine tune and simplify the usual hospital services to fit patient needs at home.
For instance, Instead of all COVID-19 patients being rushed to a hospital, they could supposedly be given the same services at home as they would in the hospital. From e-testing and diagnosis (which will be performed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) even for the mentally unstable).
From prescriptions to e-monitoring of the patient’s health progression. All from the comfort of their own homes.
Now, the problem here is:
1. Such level of technological advancement is scarce in the country.
We’re looking at a major advancement and availability of mobile computing. This includes AI chat bots and telemedicine platforms, which are quite a hard have for most countries all over the world.
And sometimes, even just the strong network or Internet connection to host such patient-doctor sessions are foreign concepts to them. So this would mean that these capabilities are not completely or readily available to deploy in most countries, including Nigeria.
Therefore, it will prove to be a challenging factor for telemedicine in Nigeria, and all over the world.
2. Patient resistance to tech-health innovation.
Let’s be honest. Convincing people, especially our Nigerian elderlies, to sit back and receive treatments at home is going to be more difficult than anything.
Just convincing people to stay at home alone is already proving to be a hard. Take a look at all the countless viral videos of doctors begging the public to stay at home in order to stay safe.
If this is to work perfectly, telemedicine in Nigeria would need the help of governments, their political puppets, health campaigns, and online education programs to support it.
3. It poses a potential threat to physical doctor-patient interaction.
Since physical exams are often necessary to make a full diagnosis, this might hamper the full effect of telemedicine. So there’s the possibility that patients won’t completely settle with online interactions in place of patient-doctor visits.
However, telemedicine trumps this because it saves both time and energy, and even money. So if at all telemedicine in Nigeria were to indeed substitute physical patient-doctor interaction, who’s to say people won’t get addicted to it?
Because the truth is that we all hate hospital smells, anyway.
The takeaway thought.
Telemedicine in Nigeria can’t be a complete replacement of the already existing healthcare norm. But it sure is one necessary alternative to help put a leash on the ever increasing number of people who visit health facilities when they don’t have to.
And of course, with the potential of growth of telemedicine globally, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria can greatly benefit from it.