Kenya telemedicine initiative aims to speed up cancer diagnosis and treatment
June 2, 2015
The Kenya Ministry of Health has opened its first e- diagnostic and consultation clinics at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi and Machakos Hospital as a part of its e-health programme in Africa. It includes a telemedicine initiative to improve access to earlier and better diagnosis and treatment of cancer and diabetes in Kenya and the rest of Africa.
The clinics are part of German healthcare company Merck’s five-year CAP capacity advancement programme. The CAP was launched in 2012 to expand healthcare capacity in the areas of research and development, supply-chain integrity and efficiency, pharmacovigilance, medical education, and community awareness in Africa and developing countries.
“Merck’s e-health initiative demonstrates our commitment to building healthcare capacity and improving access to innovative and equitable healthcare solutions and disease awareness for patients in rural areas across Kenya,” said Frank Stangenberg- Haverkamp, chairman of E-Merck.
The e-diagnostic and consultation clinics aim to improve access to better cancer healthcare for patients in African rural areas. They will allow patients and healthcare providers in remote areas using IP and video conferencing to interact with cancer specialists at Kenyatta Hospital, the largest national referral and teaching hospital in Kenya, thus extending the reach of healthcare into remote areas.
“We are happy to partner with Merck to support Kenya national telemedicine programme which will enable patient consultations with specialists in referral hospitals to help earlier diagnosis and quicker and better care,” said James Macharia, Kenya’s cabinet secretary of health. “Video conferencing technology takes into consideration the reality of Africa in which the majority of the poor population live in a rural set-up with inadequate health facilities and less developed road infrastructure, which are barriers to better healthcare, specially in cancer early detection and treatment.”
The next phase will include upgrading the telemedicine system to help sub-specialists examine the patient at the county hospital in real time using digital patient examination equipment.
“Merck’s e-health initiative will contribute to bringing healthcare to under-served populations improving the quality and reducing the cost of healthcare delivery; improving the effectiveness of public health programmes and research to promote prevention and better managing of non-communicable diseases, specially cancer, diabetes and cardiac diseases,” said Rasha Kelej, vice president of Merck's biopharmaceutical business Merck Serono. “Merck will actively engage in dialogue with governments and local stakeholders in Africa to inform the expansion of their e-health initiative to improve access to cancer healthcare across Africa.”
The CAP has provided since 2012 more than 2000 medical and pharmacy students with medical education about clinical diabetes and hypertension management in Kenya and aims to reach more than 15000 medical students across Africa by the end of 2018.
Merck also announced the Merck Cancer Control Programme (MCCP) in partnership with Oxford University and the University Of Nairobi to educate students and healthcare providers about cancer early detection and prevention. The programme will be augmented by community awareness campaigns to contribute to reducing cancer incidence and improve its survival rates. The programme kicked off in Uganda in April and will provide medical education in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania starting this month.
“Merck has developed tailored patient materials to raise awareness about cancer early detection and prevention among African communities to help in controlling the disease and improving cancer survival rate in Africa,” said Kelej.
The Merck African Supply Chain Forum was launched in April 2015 in partnership with the University of Nairobi, Kemsa (Kenya medical supplies authority) and PSK (Kenya Pharmaceutical Society) to contribute to improving supply chain efficiency in Kenya by providing training and technical support to help developing and applying good distribution and storage practice using international guidelines.
Merck previously partnered with African ministries of health, universities and the Patient Diabetes Association to carry out nationwide diabetes awareness text messages to healthcare providers and community members in Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. It also introduced an e-learning platform where medical and pharmacy students and healthcare providers in rural areas can have free access to all medical educational materials and lectures on a dedicated web site that has been developed by Excemed.
As part of the CAP, by the end of 2015 more than 5000 medical students in partnership with African universities such as University of Nairobi, Makerere University, Namibia University and University of Ghana in addition to Asian universities such as Maharashtra University in India and the University of Indonesia will benefit from European-accredited clinical chronic diseases management training which is seeking to equip them with skills to better manage and prevent these diseases.
Merck plans to target more than 15000 students by the end of 2018 expanding to more African, Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries with a focus on non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, thyroid dysfunction and fertility management. The programme will also kick off initiatives on building research capacity and improving the supply chain to improve patient safety in Africa.