By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA, May 1 (Reuters) - U.S. cloud services company Vonage is partnering with social enterprise CTI Africa to pioneer video-linked healthcare in Uganda, where good hospitals and qualified medical personnel are scarce.
CTI Africa focuses on deploying digital technology to increase efficiency and productivity in sectors such as agriculture, health and energy.
The digital "tele-health" platform is expected to offer users faster access to higher-quality healthcare.
"As the need for remote and virtual medical care increases, especially during these challenging times, we are proud that Vonage's video technology is helping to make healthcare available to those who need it most," Vonage said in a statement.
Owing to years of under-funding, neglect and corruption under President Yoweri Museveni, the east African country's healthcare system often experiences a lack of drugs, while there are shortages of basic diagnostic equipment like imaging machines, especially in public facilities.
Jude Okiria, CTI Africa's head of LifeHealth program, told Reuters that patients would be able to connect with medical personnel via video or voice calls from their mobile phones.
"This enables patients to speak directly to the doctors sitting at a clinic and describe any suspicious symptoms...with the information provided, doctors can remotely diagnose patients and prescribe the appropriate treatment."
A field team helps delivers drugs to patients and perform necessary medical procedures.
So far CTI Africa's digital health platform has been adopted by three health insurance providers, including Nairobi-listed Jubilee Holdings, who between them boast hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
Patient profiles on the platform will capture and store medical histories and basic biodata.
"The majority of Ugandans do not have accurate and meticulously maintained health records that support medical personnel with a starting point in case of ailments or sickness," Okiria said.
Uganda does not have universal health insurance and the majority of patients have to meet health care bills from their own pocket. That often means those who don't have the cash simply stay away from hospitals when they fall sick. (Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Kirsten Donovan)