The chief executive officer of Medweb, a San Francisco-based medical-software-and-device company, Dr. Peter “Pete” Killcommons is an avid proponent of telemedicine, especially its use in developing nations to improve access to health care. Recently, Dr. Peter Killcommons traveled to Cape Verde, Africa, to study the results of the nationwide implementation of a telemedicine program.
Loosely defined, telemedicine is the use of information and communication technologies to provide health care services where distance and inaccessibility present considerable challenges. Based on these criteria, health care professionals decided to institute a range of telemedicine initiatives in Cape Verde, a string of islands off the western coast of Africa.
Initial analyses of Cape Verde’s telemedicine services indicated tremendous promise. From November 2011 to December 2013, researchers used a strategic approach known as “initiate-build-operate-transfer” to analyze data collected while Cape Verde adopted and instituted a national telemedicine network and virtual education network. In November 2014, Telemedicine Journal and E-health published the results of this study in an article that declared the launch of these networks “successful” and called the initial results “encouraging.”
A follow-up study, published in the NCBI journal Acta Medica Portuguesa in April 2017, looked at information from 2013 and 2014 to support claims that telemedicine has helped to significantly reduce existing health care inequalities in Cape Verde. However, it cautioned that not all of the success stories associated with telemedicine are supported by authoritative data.