For more than 40 years, hospitals in developed countries have extended their services to patients in remote locations using telemedicine.Telemedicine allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, advice,intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions.
With countries around the world closing their borders due to covid-19, people in developed countries can no longer hop on a plane to seek specialist treatment abroad. Tele-consultations have rapidly found a prominent role in patients seeking second opinions from specialists located abroad. This is saving patients a lot of stress, time and money as their doctors can review their tests, or radiology results remotely.
A newly opened medical center, Morningstar Clinic, located in Lusaka’s Waterfalls area, Meanwood, will be providing among it services, second opinion consultations with cardiovascular experts from the US and around the world.
The Medical Director of the clinic, Dr Celestin Kabangu said “Cardiac conditions are a common cause of suffering and death in Zambia. Patients who have financial means sometimes travel out of the country to be evaluated and treated for heart conditions. Unfortunately in some cases,patients find, after travelling abroad, that there is nothing more that can be done for their condition, even after spending all their lifesavings. There are also other situations where patients who previously had life saving treatments abroad have difficulties following with their physicians abroad due to financial constraints. This is why we thought that partnering with world experts in cardiovascular care could help us as clinicians best take care of patients with challenging cardiac conditions”.
The medical center has employed a healthcare collaboration and telemedicine platform designed for medical consultations that are also in use in several major US hospitals called VitalEngine.
Philip Johnson, MD, PhD, a US cardiologist and developer of VitalEngine and the MyHeart.net website said “by using VitalEngine, the Morningstar team in Zambia will be able to collaborate with cardiologists and other physicians in the US and beyond by sharing patient’s clinical data such as echocardiograms, CT scans and records. These images and records can be securely uploaded and analyzed by a cardiac expert anywhere in the world and medical advice can be dispensed to the referring medical provider in real time. In addition, VitalEngine offers telemedicine capabilities to enable remote video consultation directly with the patient and physician when needed.”
Dr Mustafa Ahmed, the Director of Interventional Cardiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham agreed that this is a remarkable mission that will allow the delivery of world class cardiology care in Zambia.He said the use of VitalEngine technology will allow sharing of tests across continents and a situation where leading experts from around the world can directly impact care for patients in Zambia and be part of this wonderful mission.
Dr Scott Lim, Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia, who was in Zambia in October 2019 to train the local team on how to perform rheumatic mitral valvuloplasty at the University Teaching Hospital, said “Telemedicine services like what is being offered at Morningstar Clinic can bring close collaboration between experts around the world, for the benefit of patients.Technological developments in medical data sharing allow physicians to review the patients’ echocardiograms and other tests, which allow them to partner with local Zambian physicians in the diagnosis and recommendation of treatments for a broad spectrum of cardiovascular conditions. It is a great honor to be invited to participate in this important venture.”
Dr David Kazhila, MD FCP (SA) FRCP (Canada), a Non-Invasive Cardiologist/Internal Medicine Specialist based in Ontario Canada,President and Co-founder of The Global Alliance of Zambian healthcare Professionals (GAZHP) said GAZHP is very excited to collaborate with Morningstar clinic in providing support in the form of consultations and second opinions to physicians on the ground. He said this is the type of collaboration that the 60 plus strong and still-growing international network of highly skilled and experienced Zambian healthcare professionals
in the diaspora and at home, envisioned. “We are interested in using technology as a platform to leverage skills exchange for specialist care,research, training networking and mentorship between Zambian diaspora based specialists and local institutions such as Morningstar. We believe this type of relationship is key to the improvement in the delivery of high-quality healthcare in this era of universal health coverage. Additionally, the advent of Covid 19 pandemic has placed the use of telemedicine and artificial intelligence front and center in the provision of care to patients.This falls in line with one of GAZHP’s key objectives. We are looking forward to expanding this collaboration beyond cardiovascular medicine as we add more specialized areas of support.”