A handful of research efforts have shown that in order to fast-track the improvement of healthcare delivery through removal of access barriers, there is the need for telehealth systems to incorporate vital tools such as telemedicine, health informatics and tele-education.
While advanced countries are zeroing in on the use of telemedicine to promote their healthcare sectors, Africa is seemingly progressing at a slow pace with Nigeria and Burkina Faso lacking support from their respective governments. Although South Africa and Ethiopia have progressed in the practice of telemedicine, most African countries are yet to record any significant progress due to their grapples with insufficiency of ICT infrastructure.
This article sheds light on the observable reasons why Nigeria has not progressed in telemedicine. It therefore argues that that the country has not demonstrated enough readiness to embrace telehealth systems.
The Syndrome of Poor Internet
There are hundreds of Nigerian communities with excessively poor Internet access and this alone is a significant deterrent to the practice and growth of telemedicine in Nigeria. For effective practice of telemedicine, both healthcare institutions and patient populations need reliable Internet access.
While some urban-based healthcare centres in Nigeria do not adopt telehealth systems for certain reasons, many rural communities lack access to reliable Internet connectivity. Therefore, people in such communities barely stand the chance to enjoy online-based medical communication from remote health specialists.
Failure to Synchronize Education with Telemedicine
Nigeria is yet to show any serious readiness to appreciate telemedicine through education. Undeniably, many Nigerians are yet to value the benefits they can derive from remote access to medical needs. People in Nigeria are barely educated about what telemedicine stands for.
The United States and several other advanced countries continually champion the need for development through the adoption of telehealth systems. Constantly, the United States is encouraging healthcare facilities inclusive of hospitals and clinics to adopt improved modes of communication in reaching patients in remote locations. Rather than establishing unnecessary physical contact with patients, doctors, physicians and clinicians are realizing the need to communicate with patients via videoconferencing.
However in Nigeria, most people (including many caregivers) have little to no educational appreciation of what telemedicine is. With many Nigerian healthcare institutions not adopting telehealth systems, it is quite difficult for their patients to realize the need for telemedicine.
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Low Affordability of Telemedicine
Poor education and failure of healthcare institutions to adopt telehealth systems constitute the reasons for low usage of telemedicine in urban areas despite that many Nigerians in these areas can afford the cost of a telecommunication medium such as videoconferencing.
Comparatively, rural communities grapple with the inability to afford telemedicine because most residents cannot bear the cost of smartphones and other gadgets required for the practice of telemedicine. Additionally, healthcare givers in such communities have little to no understanding of telemedicine.
The utilization of telehealth systems is undeniably essential for the removal of barriers to healthcare access. As a plus, such systems reduce the expenditure on healthcare while still favouring the delivery of quality care to patients.
However, Nigeria doesn’t seem to have joined the bandwagon of countries with healthy growth of telemedicine. While blame for this failure is partly on the Nigerian government, health institutions in Nigeria also have the responsibility of embracing the use of telehealth systems.
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