I qualified as a Biochemist in 1989 and after working for 2 years, I realised that there was a shortage of medical professionals in the country and I decided to study Medicine.
In 1998, I was introduced to TeleMedicine – a remote diagnosis and treatment of patients via telecommunications technology - by a friend who advised me to apply for a USTTI, a scholarship in the United States for students from developing countries.
With a shortage of medical professionals in the country at the time, I realised that TeleMedicine would be able to solve that problem. This would be done by using technology to deliver healthcare to rural areas and share scarce resources with community healthcare workers.
After returning from the USA, I applied for funding from the Department of Science and Technology Innovation Fund to develop a user-friendly telemedicine system with the University of Stellenbosch.
We’ve participated in many awards since and always look for opportunities for funding and partnership to develop certain projects. The funding from SAB Foundation allowed us to develop innovation to connect Bluetooth enabled equipment for blood pressure and glucose readings. The community healthcare workers, through their mobile devices, now have a seamless system where they can send the patient’s results to doctors and specialists in big hospitals for a diagnosis and speedy intervention.
When we have big implementations, we bring in interns from industry agencies, sub-contract specialists and technical experts, which allows us to share and transfer skills.
My dream is to build a virtual hospital to expand scarce resources to areas we can’t reach in South Africa and other countries on the continent. I believe this is possible but we need to deal with challenges like connectivity and minimal or no budgets for e-health to realise this.
We have implemented the system in hospitals in the following provinces: 14 in Limpopo, four in Kwa-Zulu Natal, five in the Free State and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. We are also conducting a needs assessment in Lesotho and have looked at e-readiness of ministries of health in 14 SADC countries.