Digitalization of Tanzania Health Care Services: Telemedicine Infrastructures to Link Rural and Urban Areas

The majority of people in Tanzania live in rural areas where decent medical care is still a challenge. Consultation with specialists located in cities where hospitals with modern facilities exist becomes impossible for patients living in the rural areas of Tanzania. Patients travel long distances from remote areas to cities and make appointments to see the specialist, for which they incur several costs, including accommodation and subsistence. These can be addressed using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and mobile phones. However, developing an infrastructure for a platform for bringing specialists or a panel of specialists living in cities to offer consultation services to patients living in rural areas has remained a challenge. This research, therefore, is aimed at improving health care services for rural patients by developing telemedicine technology in the context of Tanzania. This will ensure that patients have access to the specialists as quickly as possible instead of travelling long distances to the cities and spending time and money waiting for appointments. With the proposed system, collection and delivery of samples and drugs using drone technology, real-time online consultation with remote specialist doctors, and telesurgery will be possible. This telemedicine platform has been developed and tested. Patients could register, and doctors could prescribe tests and medicine within the system. Both video and audio calls were possible. Payments using the NHIF cards were demonstrated. The drone carried dummy samples from Magufuli Hostels to the UDSM Health Centre in Dar es Salaam. Further improvements could be made by testing the system with a much larger population over longer distances.