The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has announced that the Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP) is collaborating with Microsoft, the Botswana Innovation Hub, and other global partners to launch the first telemedicine service in Africa using TV white spaces to bring internet connectivity to hospitals and clinics across rural areas of Botswana. Named Project Kgolagano, the pilot project will enable clinical consultations and diagnoses for a patient population who would otherwise have to travel great distances to the capital city of Gaborone, Botswana, for specialized care.
Penn Medicine telemedicine experts and physicians, including Doreen Ramogola-Masire, MD, country director of the BUP and cervical cancer expert and Ryan Littman-Quinn, ?director of Mobile Health Informatics at BUP, are going to provide the support and medical expertise for the referred patients. Harvey Friedman, MD, director of BUP, who is also professor of Medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Penn, is the principal investigator of Project Kgolagano, which translates as "to be connected or networked."
The BUP, a program of the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, includes three main partners: the Government of Botswana, the University of Botswana and the University of Pennsylvania. These entities are "working together to build capacity in sustainable and high quality healthcare in Botswana through clinical care, research and medical education," according to Dr. Friedman. Other collaborators on the project include Global Broadband Solutions, Vista Life Sciences, BoFiNet, Adaptrum and USAID-NetHope.
The BUP, which was founded in 2001, provides expert care. It focuses on areas related to HIV, tuberculosis and cervical cancer, including co-morbid, multi-drug resistant and complicated cases and dermatology, among others.
"TV white spaces" is the core of a technology that allows for the delivery of broadband using dynamic spectrum access. Unused spectrum on the frequency range - commonly used to deliver television channels - is used and known as TV white space or TVWS. Microsoft, through its 4Afrika initiative, has launched similar pilots across Africa including efforts in Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Ghana.
A specific focus of will be on providing access to specialized maternal medicine. This is designed to improve the livelihoods of women who live in small towns and rural areas.
Project Kgolagano will initially run in three locations: Lobatse, Francistown and Maun, with additional locations to be determined in the coming months. The hospitals that will be connected are: Athlone Hospital in Lobatse, Nyangabwe Hospital in Francistown and Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital in Maun. Additionally, Tsopeng Clinic in Lobatse, Donga Clinic in Francistown and Moeti Clinic, Boseja Clinic, Maun Clinic, Sedie Clinic ad Maun General Clinic will be connected to the program.
According to Friedman, this latest project builds off of BUP's continuing telemedicine efforts with cell phone technology in the country to help bring better clinical care to patients afar. "This unique and innovative project will allow underserved patients in the rural areas of Botswana to have better access to the health care they need," he said Friedman. "People won't have to travel hundreds of miles to the see specialists, which are lacking in many of the rural hospitals in the country. They will be able to engage with Penn Medicine doctors and residents who work over there from their local hospitals and clinics in a live telemedicine connection that will deliver care in a faster, more convenient, and cost-effective manner."