In rural Africa, where people regularly walk or cycle long distances to their nearest clinic or referral hospital, technology and the internet can provide access to better diagnosis and treatment. The Virtual Doctors, with help from Cryptonomy, are determined to bring forward that change in Zambia and Malawi.
The Virtual Doctors is a UK-based charity that is helping to save lives in remote areas of Zambia with telemedicine software. They provide a smartphone, loaded with a specially written app, to clinical officers working in remote clinics. When a patient with a complex or unusual condition appears, the clinical officer creates a patient file, complete with examination notes and photos, which are then uploaded to the cloud. A doctor in the UK reviews it and offers diagnostic and treatment advice. As a result, patients are diagnosed more quickly and often can be treated in their communities.
The idea came to British safari guide Huw Jones 20 years ago in very low-tech and unhappy circumstance.
In 1998 he was driving through the remote Zambian bush when he came upon a trail of sticky blood on the dusty road. 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, almost 60km away.
Despite Huw’s efforts, the huge blood loss lead to both mother and unborn baby dying in the back of his jeep, leaving a devastating effect on Huw and a conviction to do something that would make a difference. This brought about the conception for ‘the Virtual Doctors’.
Always a forward thinking charity, the Virtual Doctors approached Cryptonomy in 2013 for help, to enable them to be the first third sector organisation in the UK to accept donations in bitcoin. Cryptonomy provided advice and guidance, as well as installed a hierarchical deterministic cold storage wallet, allowing The Virtual Doctors to accept donations from private addresses, sort funds off-line, and make payments securely online without exposing their private keys to the internet.
As of December 2017, the Virtual Doctor service is in use in 41 sites across 7 districts in Zambia. They have over 60 volunteer doctors on their register, covering 18 different medical specialities, actively receiving daily enquiries from their app.
There’s now the opportunity to roll this out into Malawi, where currently there’s 50,000 patients to 1 doctor. For this to happen the Virtual Doctors need to raise £40,000 to fund this new area of expansion.
The Virtual Doctors are actively raising donations to help save lives in Malawi and Zambia. Whether traditional currency or bitcoin, any amount can help.
- Just £5 per month could help fund the internet bandwidth cost for a clinical officer to access the Virtual Doctors.
- A £200 donation could pay for a handheld device used by a clinical officer in a rural clinic.
- A £500 donation could fund the training of a clinical officer as well as set up costs in the clinic.
- A £1,000 donation could bring a new clinic onto the Virtual doctors platform, complete with bandwidth for a whole year, with the potential to service 12,000 patients.
- £20,000 could bring 20 clinics onto the platform, serving over 240,000 patients.
If you would like to help the Virtual Doctors please do get in touch through their website, or donate directly at https://www.virtualdoctors.org/donate/#donate.
More on Virtual Doctors