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eHealth and Telemedicine in Nigeria

 

Introduction

According to WHO report, in Nigeria life expectancy dropped from 53.8 years for females and 52.6 years for males in 1991 to 46 years for females and 45years for males in 2004. The infant mortality rate(IMR) rose from 87.2 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 104 in 2004. The maternal mortality ratio of 800 per 100,000 live births is one of the highest in the world.

The disability adjusted life expectancy (DALE) of 38.3 years ranks 187 in the WHO report. There is thus an urgent need to support the health system with adequately trained personnel and medical facilities in order to improve the quality of healthcare.

Important causes of morbidity and mortality in Nigeria include malaria, TB, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS , parasitic infestations, typhoid fever, pneumonia, complications of pregnancies and deliveries, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. Others include strokes, cancers, sickle cell disease and accidents, coronary artery disease and pulmonary arterial embolism, amongst others. eHealth has a crucial role to play in the diagnosis and management of these conditions and related complications.

The Nigerian health care system is presently characterized by inadequate infrastructures and lack of basic amenities. The federal government has commenced refurbishment of some of the teaching hospitals. Most of the existing health services are inaccessible to the vulnerable group especially the poor and people living in rural and underdeveloped areas.

What is e-Health?

eHealth is a relatively new term in health care practice and one of the most rapidly growing areas in health and ICT today. The term encompasses a range of services that involve health care and information technology supported by electronic processes and communication. It involves the use of information and communication technology(ICT) to improve patient care.

The World Health Organization defines eHealth as ‘the cost-effective and secure use of information and communications technologies(ICT) in support of health and health- related fields, including health-care services, health surveillance, health literature , and health education, knowledge and research'.(WHO 2005).

Eysenbach G, a world-renowned eHealth expert defines eHealth as ‘an emerging field in the intersection of medical informatics, public health and business , referring to health services and information delivered or enhanced through the Internet and related technologies. In a broader sense, the term characterizes not only a technical development, but also a state -of-mind, a way of thinking, an attitude, and a commitment for networked, global thinking, to improve health care locally, regionally, and worldwide by using information and communication technology'.(Eysenbach, 2001).

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine involves the use of medical information transferred from one site to another through electronic communications to improve patient's health care including diagnosis and treatment.
Telemedicine may be as simple as two medical professionals discussing a case over the telephone, or as advanced as using video teleconferencing systems.


Two forms of e-Health/Telemedicine

eHealth occurs in two forms which include synchronous or ‘real time' communications and asynchronous or ‘store and forward' communications.
Synchronous eHealth requires a communication link between two or more parties that allows a real-time interaction to occur. Synchronous telemedicine may use video-conferencing equipment with attachment of peripheral devices which aid in interactive examinations. For instance, a tele-stethoscope(eStethoscope) allows the consulting physician in remote location to listen to the patient's heartbeat and lungs, a tele-ophthalmoscope(eOphthalmoscope) and tele-otoscope(eOtoscope) allow a remote physician to examine a patient's eyes and ears respectively.

Asynchronous eHealth involves the acquisition and transmission of patient's medical data such as radiological studies, laboratory results and biomonitoring information to a physician at a convenient time for assessment offline. A digital image is taken using a digital camera(‘stored') and then sent (‘forwarded') to another location. Asynchronous eHealth doesn't require the parties to be present at the same time.

Next on eHealth and Telemedicine in Nigeria - 2

 

By

Dr Osbert Egiebor, MD, FAAP, FACR.

Dr O. O. Egiebor is a Nigerian Physician practicing in the United States of America. He performs regular voluntary medical missions in Nigeria.

He is actively involved in the establishment of Lincoln Advanced Radiology & Diagnostic Medical Centre in Benin City, Nigeria. The project is being undertaken by Nigerian Physicians in the United States in order to improve the standard of healthcare and medical education in Nigeria. The centre will serve as a teaching facility for Nigerian Physicians and medical students.

 

 

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Comments

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Dec 197, 2006

 

Temi J.from Abuja, Nigeria. says:

 

 

Thanks for the clarity. But a lot depends on leadership and investmg by government. Thanks.  

 

 


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