Hi-tech way to diagnosis
Telemedicine, in which medical experts at a hospital or medical centre in town can observe a patient who is at a clinic far from them, signals the end of gruelling and costly journeys to urban hospitals for patients in rural areas.
Telemedicine uses hi-tech equipment such as computers, video cameras, television sets, microphones and speakers to facilitate communication and diagnosis between patients and doctors.
"With this modern medical technology a patient who is far away from the provincial hospital or clinic can tell us where he or she is experiencing pains," telemedicine site coordinator Nancy Molokomme said.
"We will continue to ask further questions while we are looking at the patient on a big screen."
Molokomme said the "question-and-answer session [between the patient and doctor or medical expert] will be conducted efficiently via a microphone and speakers".
"After meticulous medical observation the doctor will provide the patient with an appropriate prescription."
Molokomme said video-conferencing was also a way to easily continue educating and training rural health practitioners.
"They often take part in professional meetings and videoconferencing will provide educational opportunities for them without their having to leave their areas of practice," Molokomme said.
The telemedicine project is being piloted at the Mokopane regional hospital, the George Masebe district hospital and the Rebone clinic in Limpopo.
It will be extended to other district health centres that are connected to the provincial hospital.
Provincial health and social development spokesman Phuti Seloba welcomed the telemedicine initiative.
"Telemedicine will be the magic word at state hospitals and clinics in this province," Seloba said.
He said it was one of the most progressive steps taken by the department.
Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and health MEC Seaparo Sekwati were at the launch of the project. The pilot project will focus on patients with renal failure.