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Cameroonian Startup Links Patients to Foreign Doctors  


FILE - This handout photo released by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Nov. 14, 2019, shows a young man receiving an Ebola vaccine at MSF facilities in the North Kivu capital of Goma, DRC. Both Guinea and the DRC are reporting a reemergence of the virus.

With COVID-19 still limiting travel, a Cameroonian startup has created a system that allows African medical patients to have an online consultation with doctors abroad.

For years, 29-year-old Yvonne Tchouen of Cameroon has suffered from heart and breathing problems.

For the past year, she has tried go abroad to see a specialist, but travel outside the country is difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She finally found an alternative through Home Care Services, a private company that enables a patient to have a video consultation with a doctor living abroad.

Yvonne chose to receive a second medical opinion from a specialist in France.

This is done in the presence of a general practitioner who is at her side in Cameroon.

Tchouen says she has been trying for a long time to meet specialists, in vain, without success. Today she had the opportunity to have a consultation with one who is abroad, she says, and who gave her the direction for the solution to her problem. Tchouen says she is really happy for that.

The video linkup was made possible by the Cameroon company MedicAfrik.

The patient, or a patient’s family living abroad, pays a fee for MedicAfrik to connect the patient with doctors living in France or Canada.

MedicAfrik has almost 100 clinics and specialists participating in the network, with doctors speaking to patients in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Togo.

Marcel Tchofach, the country manager of MedicAfrik in Cameroon, says because of the enthusiasm of the users, the company is working in the medium term, even in the very short term, to extend the product to the whole of Africa, to as many countries as possible.

Dr. Daniel Wang, who lives in Cameroon, says the online consultations are a good idea, and he notes that many patients now use the technology because of COVID-19.

But he said he hopes his patients also continue to have confidence in their local doctor.

Dr. Wang says local doctors must make it clear to the patient that they are in the best position to give direction. He says they simply integrate what comes from elsewhere, so they do not have a limited opinion. Wang says this spirit of collaboration must also be with doctors abroad who must not dictate the way of doing things to the local doctors, but rather adds to what they are already doing to complete their opinions.

At Cameroon’s National College of Doctors, they also say that patients benefit from getting a second opinion from doctors abroad.

At the same time, says Dr. Jean-Berthelot Zambo, the pandemic has shown the country’s medical system can handle most problems.

Dr. Zambo says the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity to prove that we can treat ourselves in Cameroon. For months, people have not left the country, he says, yet they have been treated in Cameroon.

So far, about 500 patients have used the MedicAfrik system, with more signing up every day.

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