Zambia has the second highest rate of cervical cancer in the world. To find out how telehealth – the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication – can be used to screen and care for women affected in Zambia, SPIDER- The Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions funded a needs assessment by independent researchers.
The study was undertaken June to August 2016 and focused on the Zambian context exploring the barriers and facilitators of telehealth solutions in cervical cancer screening and care. The researchers explored the perspectives of health care workers on knowledge sharing using telehealth. The perception of telehealth among decision makers, service providers and patient groups in a social and cultural context were explored to develop an implementation framework for screening and care. The method used for the study was face-to-face focus group discussions.
Click on the images below to download a full report, a brief overview or the executive summary.
Key findings in brief:
- There is an overwhelming support for telehealth in cervical cancer screening in Zambia among those consulted in the study.
- Despite the enthusiasm regarding the use of telehealth there are concerns and uncertainties such as confidentiality, data protection and ownership of data, healthcare workers’ apathy towards technology.
- There are different perceptions in the readiness of the Zambian health system for the potential use of telehealth in cervical cancer screening. ICT connectivity and ICT knowledge and skills are of concern. Another important factor is the need for more awareness to reduce cervical cancer stigma to increase and encourage service uptake for women.
- Participants identified gaps and opportunities for the formulation and development of policies and guidelines in the Zambian health system that can underpin a successful implementation of telehealth in cervical cancer screening and care.
- Other pre-requisites stated by the focus group participants were the need to determine who covers the cost, consider scalability and sustainability of the project, develop human capacity and incorporating health informatics in health workers’ curricula.
SPIDER and ZHIA call for a consorted effort to compliment and co-fund a thorough implementation of telehealth aligned to existing national campaigns in Zambia.
The project was undertaken simultaneously in Rwanda and Kenya and could be scaled to similar socio-economic settings within a variation of health systems. We welcome partnerships and opportunities to collaborate with Ministries, organisations and companies that want to improve the screening and care of cancer through telehealth.
The study was conducted by:
Dr. John Owuor, Principal Investigator of the study, former research fellow at the Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm university, currently a Marie Curie ASSISTID Research fellow at Centre for Global Health, Trinity College Dublin.
Dr. Charles Chengo, practicing medical doctor at Lumwana Mining Company in North Western Zambia and the interim president of Zambia Health Informatics Association (ZHIA).
Dr. Sharon Kapambwe, National Co-Ordinator for the Cancer Prevention Programme in Zambia, Centre for Infections Disease Research of Zambia (CIDRZ).
Lushomo Shanaube and Natasha Chung, Research Assistants