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House of Rep call for telehealth Dr. Scrutiny

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By Mercy Kelani

Telemedicine transforms patients’ connection with their healthcare providers.

The House of Representatives is calling upon the Federal Government to conduct a thorough investigation into the practices and procedures of telehealth doctors throughout the entire nation. Telemedicine is revolutionizing the healthcare landscape by transforming the way patients connect with their healthcare providers through virtual video or phone consultations. This innovative approach enhances both the well-being of individuals and their convenience, offering a myriad of advantages. During Wednesday’s plenary session, the House took a significant step by passing a resolution.

This resolution came about after Blessing Amadi, the representative of the Port Harcourt City Federal Constituency in Rivers State, moved a motion to investigate the operations of telemedicine practitioners in Nigeria. The House’s decision was a direct result of this motion. Taking the lead in deliberating on the fundamental concepts of the motion, the legislator highlighted that Telemedicine is an expanding realm within the healthcare field that holds immense promise in enhancing individuals’ access to medical treatment and overall wellbeing, by mitigating hurdles related to time, distance, and geographical location which often result in delays in obtaining healthcare services.

Lack of a distinct legal structure for Telemedicine operators.

Also, telemedicine, as pointed out by Amadi, guarantees the delivery of healthcare services to individuals with restricted access to care at the required time. In Nigeria, telemedicine companies have successfully been running for approximately ten years, and this fact was acknowledged by her. Furthermore, she pointed out that the enactment of the National Health Act in 2014 has played a crucial role in establishing a legal structure to govern, advance, and oversee the health system of Nigeria. In expressing her thoughts, Blessing Amadi emphasized that the House is fully cognizant of the legal aspects encompassing the safety and quality of patient care, as well as the protection of data and privacy.

More so, the House recognizes the necessity of verifying medical licensing and qualifications, while also acknowledging ethical considerations such as consent and confidentiality. In spite of this, she expressed her disappointment regarding the absence of a legal structure for telemedicine operators. She further mentioned that a few providers have been requesting a blueprint or guidance, whereas others have been relying on the information obtained from the United Kingdom. The absence of a distinct legal structure for Telemedicine operators, as stated by the legislator, presents a worrisome scenario that could expose Nigerians to considerable danger.

Committee on Healthcare Services was instructed to organize a legislative summit.

Nigeria stands to gain significant advantages from telemedicine, as it has the potential to bridge the gap caused by a scarcity of healthcare professionals and effectively address the pressing demands of the population, as stated by her. In light of the motion’s acceptance, the House has called upon both the Federal Ministry of Health and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the practices and effectiveness of Telemedicine Practitioners within the country. In order to establish a legal system for Telemedicine operators within the country, the Committee on Healthcare Services was instructed to organize a legislative summit.

Furthermore, this summit would bring together all stakeholders, including policymakers, to collaborate on creating a framework for Telemedicine. The Committee is expected to complete this process within four weeks and provide a comprehensive report to enable further legislative measures. The concept of telemedicine is occasionally employed as an interchangeable term, or alternatively as a narrower description for distant healthcare services, such as diagnostic and surveillance practices. Telehealth can serve as a solution for bridging gaps in healthcare access caused by factors like rural locations, limited transportation, immobility, disease outbreaks, reduced funding, or staffing shortages.

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Additionally, telehealth can facilitate remote learning, enable virtual meetings and supervision among healthcare practitioners, support online information sharing, and aid in the integration of health data into healthcare systems. Telehealth encompasses various practices, such as remote consultations between two healthcare professionals through video conferencing, performing robotic surgeries through long-distance access, utilizing digital monitoring tools, live feeds, and apps for physical therapy, transmitting tests between different facilities for expert evaluation, continuous sending of patient health data for home monitoring, conducting online conferences between clients and practitioners, and incorporating videophone interpretation during consultations.

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