Health Systems Trust
Technology has developed in leaps and bounds in the last century, and health has always sought to make use of these advances in delivering better health care services. A new initiative worldwide is Telecommunications. Telemedicine, according to Dr. Salah H. Mandil, Director of Health Informatics and Telematics at the World Health Organisation, is the practice of medical care using audio, visual and data communications: this includes medical care delivery, consultation, diagnosis, treatment, education and the transfer of medical data. Education covers both the education of the patient and the continuing education of the health care staff. South Africa has embarked on its telemedicine project in April 1999. This issue looks at the pilot implementation of telemedicine in the Northern Cape, the Eastern Cape and at Kimberley Hospital. There are at present 30 pilot sites in the country, where community or district hospitals are linked to larger central hospitals. Services that are being offered include radiology, pathology, ultrasound and antenatal screening. How effective has this new service been? Positive responses have been received by doctors doing their community service in the country, but there are still technical challenges facing implementation of the project. Telemedicine is regarded as a tool to complement the current health care delivery in South Africa. It's full impact has still to be determined.