Masu Mediterranean and African Society of Ultrasound
Masu Mediterranean and African Society of Ultrasound

Telemedicine in ultrasound: The way forward for Africa

The 13th annual International Ultrasound Congress was held at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi organised by Mediterranean and African Society of Ultrasound (MASU) and Kenya Society for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (KESUMB).

Dr. Sudhir Vinayak, the Chair KESUMB explained that Kenya, like many African countries suffers from a shortage of radiographers. He said, "East Africa, with a population of over 100 million people has only 220 Radiologists and these are found in major cities and large hospitals. This translates to one Radiologist for 500,000 people, which is significantly below recommended levels."


"Our Universities in East Africa are able to train about 20 new Radiologists every year but these are not enough. We recognise the need to train more sonographers to counter the shortage of Radiologists."


Presenting the key lecture at the opening ceremony, the Chief Guest, Jan Labuscagne,
President of the International Society of Radiology, urged Kenya and Africa in general to adapt the use of telemedicine in ultrasound as the way of making imaging available in remote areas. Ultrasound is a commonly used and radiation-free diagnostic medical imaging technique that can be utilized in obstetrics and gynaecology, cardiology and in all spheres of medicine, including cancer examinations.


Jan Labuscagne said, "Considering the infrastructure problems in most parts of Africa, all options must be explored to make ultrasound available to as many people as possible. The use of telemedicine in Ultrasound has worked very well in the remote parts of Western Australia and other parts of the world."


"The set up for telemedicine is basic as all that is needed is computer hardware, data networks and internet based software. But to make it work properly, well trained sonographers (ultrasound technologists) are required, there has to be supervision by Radiologists, standard work protocols and proper reporting procedures."


He added that proper communication between sonographers and the Radiologist is key and explained that standard templates are used for different ultrasound examinations like foetal, abdominal, pelvis and breast to capture all aspects of the imaging. The sonographer fills in the results and also gives an evaluation of the findings. This form is then sent to the Radiologist for review, reporting and recommendations.


Dr. Vinayak who is also the Chairman, Department of Radiology at Aga Khan University
Hospital, Nairobi said that the Hospital has been performing ultrasound by telemedicine since the beginning of the year and six systems were already in place. He added that they hoped to set up two more by the end of this year and another 80 during the next four years.

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