Telemedicine: A High-Tech Path to Healthcare Services
The Republic of Cabo Verde is an island country consisting of an archipelago of 10 main islands and several smaller islands and islets. It is located 570 km of the coast of Western Africa, and is culturally contiguous with West African sub-Sahara countries. The country covers an area of 4,033 km2 and is home to 531,046 inhabitants. In terms of health resources, the country has 282 physicians, 87 nurses, and 1,081 hospital beds. Furthermore, there is no educational institution for advanced medical training on Cabo Verde. The vast geographic distances between the inhabited islands and the country's lack of specialist physicians make the citizens potentially very vulnerable with regard to needed healthcare services.
IVeH IT and Infrastructure Expert installing the teletrauma station with mobile cart.
Due to the previously described country's features and major health care needs, Cabo Verde presents and ideal place to implement the Integrated Telemedicine and e-Health Program (ITeHP). It contributes to the development of health care sector and improves the quality and access to medical services for the inhabitants of Cabo Verde.
Having recognised this opportunity, ITF, with the donation provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia under the Development Cooperation Program, in cooperation with the national authorities of the Cabo Verde, the International Virtual e-Hospital Foundation as the implementing partner, and the Slovenian IT company NKT d.o.o. as the equipment provider, successfully carried out Phase I and II of the ITeHP in the period from 2012 to 2014.
In the first two phases, 10 telemedicine centres have been built and installed on nine islands (Santo Antão, São Vincente, São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista, Brava, Fogo, Santiago, and Maio), and training has been provided for more than 50 % of the entire Cabo Verde healthcare work force. The medical staff is able to utilize the network of telemedicine carts, which combine teleconsulting and videoconferencing capability with several integrated peripherals to support the clinical activity within several telemedicine disciplines like teledermatology, telecardiology, teletrauma orthopaedics, psychiatry, neurology and others. In 2015, approximately 430 teleconsultations have been executed.
In line with its development cooperation policy the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia decided to reallocate funds for further upgrade of the ITeHP. In mid 2016, coordination has resumed between main stakeholders and the ITeHP Phase III has been launched beginning with a successful instalment of the 11th telemedicine centre in Porto Novo, Santo Antão Island, extending the network to two consulting hospitals and nine referring centres.
Conducting training on the usage of the teletrauma station for the medical staff in the Delegacia de Saúde Hospital in Porto Novo.
Putting the achievements into perspective, a person with cardiovascular disease residing in Porto Novo previously had to visit the telemedicine centre in Ribeira Grande, northern part of the island. If the diagnosis required further treatment he had to be transported back to Porto Novo to get evacuated (normally by vessel) and further examined in the tertiary healthcare facility in Mindelo, São Vincete Island. That took both, critical time and resources. With an additional telemedicine centre established in Porto Novo, citizens residing in the city and nearby settlements have now an easier and cheaper access to healthcare services.
Map of the Santo Antão and São Vincete islands.
 Previously known as Cape Verde, changed to Cabo Verde with a United Nations directive on October 24, 2013).
 Latifi, Rifat, et al. 2014. Cabo Verde Telemedicine Program: Initial Results of Nationwide Implementation. Telemedicine and e-Health 20 (11): 1–8.