To help improve the local primary healthcare in some of the most remote and impoverished areas of Africa.
These are places where people regularly walk or cycle long distances to their nearest clinic or referral hospital, and even then often receive inadequate treatment or diagnosis due to the centre being under-resourced.
The Virtual Doctors is a unique service.
Our simple technology and medicine or 'telemedicine' software, designed with rural Africa in mind, connects remote healthcare workers, called Clinical Officers, with a panel of medical experts who give diagnosis and treatment advice.
As a result, patients are diagnosed more quickly and more often treated in their communities.
The Virtual Doctors service provides rural health centres with a tablet computer with built in camera, and our bespoke telemedicine software, built for rural Africa.
When a patient with a complex or unusual condition presents, the Clinical Officer creates a patient file with examination notes and photos and uploads it to the cloud. A doctor in the UK then reviews the file and offers diagnostic and treatment advice.
In 1998 British safari guide Huw Jones was driving through the remote Zambian bush when he suddenly came upon a trail of sticky blood on the dusty road.
After following the trail for several miles, Huw caught up with a heavily pregnant woman slumped on a bicycle as her husband pedalled frantically in the relentless heat to get her to the nearest hospital, some 60km away.
Despite Huw's efforts, after such huge loss of blood, the woman and her unborn baby died in the jeep on the way; but the concept for the Virtual Doctor service, which would use the internet to save lives in rural Africa, was born.
2007 Development of first concept of mobile clinics
2011 Initial trial of telemedicine concept in Kafue District, using one Virtual Doctor in New York and satellite communications
2013 Pilot project, using 20 Virtual Doctors and the mobile broadband network, launched in six rural health centres with the Ministry of Health, Zambia
2015 Development of bespoke telemedicine software and planned implementation into National Training College, Chainama. Expansion to more rural health centres in Zambia
Dr Boniface Fundafunda, MBA, B.Pharm
Dr Fundafunda is Technical Advisor (TA) and Manager of the Drug Supply Budget Line, at the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Zambia. He provides planning, strategy and management advice and support to the public health sector on programmes leading to access to medicines. As a resource on policy and operational system development for public health, Dr Fundafunda has over 20 years of work experience in both the public and private sectors, as well as the UN agencies.
Dr Fran Fieldhouse (Head of Clinical Governance)
Fran qualified as a doctor in 1998. In 2001, following a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from the University of Liverpool, she worked in a hospital in southern Zambia for six months. She has also worked in a refugee camp in Sudan, in Tunisia and as a GP in central London with a large immigrant population.
She currently works as a GP in Oxfordshire, where she also teaches medical students from the University of Oxford and trains junior doctors.
Dr Allan Chisenga MBChB
Dr Chisenga is the District Director of Health for Lundazi District in the Ministry of Health, Eastern Province of Zambia. He also practices clinical medicine at Lundazi District hospital as a Senior Resident Medical Officer (SRMO).
Professor John Jellis OBE, FRCS
Prof Jellis joined the University Teaching Hospital, Lusaka in 1970 and retired from the University as Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery in 2000. He helped found the Zambian Italian Orthopaedic Hospital (Leonard Cheshire Foundation) in 1995 and retired from private practice there in 2005. In 1982, he founded the FlySpec Project as an extension service in orthopaedic and reconstructive surgery to remote hospitals in Zambia.
Stephanie Sterling M.D, M.P.H.K
Dr Sterling is a Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University School of Medicine and a Physician at the Concorde Medical Group in New York. She was the primary remote expert during the early project development phase.