Who are the Virtual Doctors?
We are a UK-based charity with a Zambian operation. We use a Smartphone App to connect isolated health centres in rural Zambia with volunteer doctors, based predominantly in the UK.
The volunteer doctors offer advice to diagnose conditions, treat patients and prescribe medicine. This assists and empowers the Zambian health workers, and even helps saves lives. The App also reduces the number of hospital referrals that would incur long, arduous journeys and unmanageable expense.
To help improve the local primary healthcare in some of the most remote and impoverished areas of sub-Saharan Africa. We believe this model could be adopted across Africa, making a significant impact on healthcare throughout the region and beyond.
Our highly accessible and user-friendly software, in the form of an App loaded onto a Smartphone, links workers in rural clinics to volunteer doctors. We provide training from the outset as well as sustained medical and technical support, education and feedback.
We have equipped healthcare workers in more than 80 health facilities (75 rural Health Centres & 5 District Hospitals) with the App-loaded Smartphones. We have also equipped a further 6 rural Health Centres in Malawi. These facilities serve as many as 2 million people with no direct access to a qualified doctor. Survey results, as of October 2018, show that using the Virtual Doctors service:
Improved a patient’s symptoms in 92% of cases
Prevented the need for a hospital referral in 78% of cases
Provided an educational benefit in 97% of cases
(Figures correct as of Oct 2018)
In Zambia, we are in the process of embedding the Virtual Doctors service into the Zambian Health Care system. Then we will scale back our support, leaving the local authorities to take over the service. This strategy will initially involve expansion to 100 clinics and involve transferring medical records to a Zambian secure data bank and incorporating the service within Ministry training.
In Malawi, we have started the process to implement a trial of our service in the nine districts of Central Province at the Invitation of the Ministry of Health in 2018.
In Zambia and Malawi we have the appropriate operating Memorandum of Understanding/s and these have been agreed with their respective Ministries of Health. The Virtual Doctors governance is overseen by an active Board of Trustees in the UK. In Zambia we have in-country setting as a charitable company with local Directors/Office Bearers and two local full-time staff members.
100% of our funding currently comes via the generosity of he general public. Lack of funding can prove a barrier to working so we are continually seeking new support. We currently have a very small team, comprising one full time Executive and a part time assistant in the UK and most of our core operation is supported by volunteers.