Telemedicine is defined as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status.” The terms telemedicine and telehealth are sometimes used interchangeably, but telehealth is a broader term, and does not necessarily involve clinical services.
Examples of telemedicine situations include: A radiologist in Harare reviews digital images from a patient in Masvingo. A patient consults with a specialist over live video, and a homebound patient is monitored remotely.
Telemedicine also encompasses education and networking, allowing remote health care professionals to earn continuing education credits, and giving patients access to online support groups and specialized health information.
Telemedicine intersects with health IT in many areas interoperability, infrastructure, privacy and security, for example. A radiologist reviewing X-rays must be properly authenticated and connected to a secure network. Data collected from remote patient monitoring has to be stored. Telemedicine, like electronic health records, or EHRs, requires a robust health IT infrastructure.
With reference to Zimbabwe, The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) signed a $300 000 agreement with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to facilitate the introduction of telemedicine services back in 2016 for rural clinics and hospitals.
ITU and Potraz signed a cooperation agreement in the late months of 2015 for the extension of telemedicine services to rural and remote clinics and hospitals in Zimbabwe.
Through the new project, the Ministry of ICTs Postal and Courier Services of Zimbabwe has received assistance from ITU in the development of e-health sector policies and regulations. The overall objective of the project is to use ICTs to improve delivery and provision of quality, cost effective, affordable and accessible health services, particularly to remote and disadvantaged areas.