Telemedicine's shaky start in South Africa

Having hosted its first-ever conference, the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) is profiled in this article, with the usual about the potential of telemedicine (video consults) and telehealth reaching into rural areas to make healthcare available, affordable and accessible. The article does read like a basic primer in eHealth but South Africa is not Minnesota:  networks are unreliable (see Dr. Jenny Nash’s experience in Natal) and rural doctors are at start skeptical that it can solve the need for more specialists.  Polycom is featured but it’s clear that it can only work in part of the country.  It’s topped by this curious comment by the MRC’s director of telehealth: “Consultation would not only be cheaper, but greener, as patients no longer needed to be transported from peripheral hospitals to large tertiary hospitals. This not only reduces costs, but also reduces the emissions of harmful gases.”  Priorities here are…?  ‘Telemedicine wonderful in theory’, Mail & Guardian Online (SA)

Perhaps the MRC should look outside their borders to people like Jonathan Linkous of ATA and specialists like Ricardo Munoz, M.D. for help with the specialist problem.  Dr. Munoz is a pediatric cardiac specialist in Pittsburgh who regularly consults for a hospital in Cali, Colombia, 2500 miles distant, using both audio and video telemedicine–and has for some years.   Pocono Record