Mozambique inaugurates one of the first telemedicine links in Africa

Maputo 26 March 1998 Between the central hospitals of Beira and Maputo in Mozambique, a telemedicine link, based on existing terrestrial and satellite telecommunications systems, recently has been set up by a multidisciplinary group of partners, including Telecomunicaçoes of Mozambique and WDS Technologies, a telemedicine equipment vendor from Geneva. This first pilot project in Africa has been launched by the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to assess the potential of information technology in order to more appropriately meet the various complications of health care organisation in the challenging environment of the developing world. The inauguration honours were fulfilled by H.Emr. Pascoal Mocumbi, Prime Minister of Mozambique.

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Between the central hospitals of Beira and Maputo in Mozambique, a telemedicine link, based on existing terrestrial and satellite telecommunications systems, recently has been set up by a multidisciplinary group of partners, including Telecomunicaçoes of Mozambique and WDS Technologies, a telemedicine equipment vendor from Geneva. This first pilot project in Africa has been launched by the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to assess the potential of information technology in order to more appropriately meet the various complications of health care organisation in the challenging environment of the developing world. The inauguration honours were fulfilled by H.Emr. Pascoal Mocumbi, Prime Minister of Mozambique.

The project enables the central hospitals of Beira and Maputo to rely on standard low-cost teleradiology equipment for the transmission and exchange of images and radiographs as well as their visualisation. The system also permits transfer of laboratory results and facilitates verbal and written communication between physicians of both medical facilities. Doctors at the Beira hospital are invited to ask the Maputo medical staff for a primary or second opinion in selected cases. The patient's medical record first can be sent down to Maputo in order to decide where further treatment should take place. Both patient and hospital in this way are able to avoid superfluous costs and inconveniences. Of course, the telemedicine link might equally be utilised for clinical and educational purposes.

The Mozambique project serves as a model and a case study for BDT and the different partners to possibly undertake new public and private telemedicine initiatives. This example has to demonstrate how the varied implementation of telecommunication and information technologies optimises the concept of telemedicine as an ideal solution for the presently existing gaps in health care provision within the majority of the developing countries. Therefore, BDT Director, Ahmed Laouyane, stresses the need for a careful follow-up of the project in order to gather valuable information on how to improve the use of telemedicine equipment and services.

In any case, the pilot project fits in with the global recommendations of the ITU's World and Regional Telecommunication Development Conferences held at Buenos Aires, Abidjan and Beirut. In addition, the partners also express their loyalty to the major ITU report Telemedicine and Developing Countries issued at the World Symposium on Telemedicine in Portugal last year. The intensive collaboration between telecommunications operators and health care providers of developed and developing countries, should guarantee a promising future of telemedicine for people with no current easy access to medical institutions or specialists, according to a hopeful BDT Director.


Leslie Versweyveld

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