Telemedicine as a tool to improve access to specialist healthcare for ENT patients in rural Rwanda: pilot project
Patients in rural and remote areas frequently suffer poor access to specialist ear, nose and throat services despite comparatively high prevalence of ear disease in many populations. Telemedicine has been proposed as one solution to this issue, and the advent of high quality affordable digital otoscopes with improved access to mobile internet has brought this concept within the reach of many populations. We sought to test this technology in a group of patients presenting for the first time with undiagnosed ear complaints. Using the VSee telemedicine platform with a Welch Allyn Otoscope over a mobile 3G internet service 90% of patients were diagnosed accurately and furthermore competence in using the equipment was acquired within 30 minutes. This suggests that there is potential for this existing technology to be rolled out as a potential cost effective solution to widen access to specialist otology advice.