As part of efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19 using technology, Zimbabwe has approved plans to set a Virtual Hospital (VH) for the management of Covid-19 patients.
According to Engineers’ Garage, VH connect patients and consulting practitioners remotely via video and other technologies in real-time.
The VH concept allows doctors or healthcare practitioners to offer consultation services without necessarily meeting patients physically. The doctors or care givers normally gather in one place where patients consult them virtually through various technologies in their localised settings.
In a way, VH removes hindrances such as money and distance by bringing secure health services at the patient’s door step anytime.
The world’s first VH, the Virtual Care Centre was commissioned in 2015 in Chesterfield, Mo, United States of America.
Up to 20 000 beds
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists in a press conference that the VH is set to revolutionise Covid-19 management in the country.
Mutsvangwa said the approval to set up VH comes from the realisation that most Covid-19 patients in the country recover without symptoms or after experiencing mild ones, which do not require hospitalisation.
“Government will establish a provisional figure of 10 000 to 20 000 home based beds. A network of health staff will carry out protocol based monitoring and management of the cases,” she said.
She said equipment such as rechargeable oxygen concentrators, finger pulse or saturation monitors, non-contact thermometers, blood glucose testing machines and blood pressure machines will be required to support the program.
“The equipment will be deployed to the admitted patients (at home) and returned (to a health facility) when the patient gets discharged. The establishment of the Virtual Hospital will therefore alleviate the pressure on hospitals,” Mutsvangwa said.
Largest virtual hospital in Africa
In April 2021 Quro Medical, a pioneering South African digital health company, announced a $1.1 million fund to build the largest virtual hospital ward in Africa that seeks to achieve superior clinical outcomes to conventional care at a lower cost.
“Apart from the high and continuously escalating costs, traditional brick and mortar hospitalization carries with it the risk of hospital acquired infections that can be resistant to antibiotics and have serious consequences for vulnerable patients,” Quro Medical said on their website.
According to Quro Medical, the organisation is ushering in a new era of innovation in Africa’s healthcare landscape. Traditional hospitals are experiencing excessive demand, placing strain on bed capacity and hindering effective patient treatment and recovery. Yet, research has shown that acute patient care at home can lead to better clinical outcomes, lower cost and improved patient experience.
The company states that they offer affordable and accessible solution combines state-of-the-art hardware and software and clinical excellence to manage acutely ill patients in the comfort of their homes.
Virtual hospitals builds bridges
According to Engineers’ Garage services that can be accessed in a virtual hospital include but not limited to medical check-ups, patients assessment and other general consultations.
“One of the major benefits of a virtual hospital is that it can help connect patients in more secluded parts of the country with healthcare specialists. Some of them may suffer from limited mobility and others may not have sufficient funds to make long journeys. Thus, telemedicine turns out to be a cost-effective option for patients located in isolated or rural communities,” Engineers’ Garage writes in a n article.
In a paper dubbed The African Virtual Hospital (University of Jyvaskyla, Finland), researcher Cevito Wilson argued that virtual hospital concept also helps in addressing the skill gap in Africa.
“This system will at the end save lives by not only implementing several critical health treatments on the continent but also brings the international Doctors closer to the remote patients in Africa and also save money to those fortunate African patients who have to deal with visa issues and expensive travel and international stay and healthcare bills,” the paper reads.
Engineers’ Garage projects that the global market for telemedicine is expected to surpass US$ 103 billion by 2026 buoyed by increasing aging population, chronic diseases, rising per capita healthcare expenditure, and technological innovations that are bridging the technological gap between rural and urban areas.
🗳 Since democracy is crucial in a fact-based optimistic world... we remind our readers of the democratic status of the countries we write about:
Zimbabwe has a Global Freedom Score of 29 and has the status Partly Free.