Telemedicine takes root in Kenya amid COVID-19 infection fears

As published on on May 12th 2020

NAIROBI, May 12 (Xinhua) — More hospitals in Kenya including walk-in clinics have started using telemedicine for patient consultations as more people stay away from hospitals due to government restrictions to manage the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Unnecessary hospital visits have been canceled as the facilities, together with airports are marked as some of the hotspots for possible spread of COVID-19.

The Nairobi Women’s Hospital on Tuesday became the latest to start telemedicine that includes delivery of medicines to homes and hospitals, said Sam Thenya, the founder.

“Traveling has been restricted as part of efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic which means that physical hospital visits are not encouraged unless in severe cases. But this does not mean that we should forget about our health,” said Thenya.

“Therefore, our telemedicine feature enables patients to continue seeking services needed to maintain their health without having to physically go to a hospital,” Thenya told Xinhua.

He said doctors and nurses will be offering online consultation on all outpatient services for 24 hours. Patients use mobile payment for services and medicines which are delivered to their address via motorbikes.

At the Greenline Medical Specialists, patients enter a room where consultations are held via a video-link with Henderson Irimu, a consultant physician, indicating a growing use of telemedicine among smaller clinics.

Last month, Minet Kenya, a medical insurance broker partnered with several doctors to launch telemedicine for their customers.

The move is part of the wider acceptance of telemedicine by medical insurance companies in Kenya, most of which agree to pay for costs associated with over-the-internet consultations and diagnosis, according to a brief survey by Xinhua.

Sammy Muthui, the Minet Kenya chief executive officer said the partnership will continue post-COVID-19.

“The partnership guarantees members access to online doctors at a highly discounted consultation fee, thus conserving member benefits for longer,” Muthui added.

Growth of telemedicine in Kenya is helped by a high penetration of the internet. Communications Authority of Kenya data shows there are 45.4 million subscribers of wireless internet, half of them being active users. Kenya has a population of 47 million, according to the 2019 census.