Africa suffers more than 24% of the global burden of disease but has access to only 3% of health workers, with an average of only two doctors per 10,000 people - by far the lowest physician density in the world. Working under such difficult conditions, there is substantial need to facilitate communication within the healthcare community in Africa in order to share best practices, refer patients, access support in rural areas, and engage with the governments they rely on.
Mobile technology is on the rise, and growing fast. Informa Telecoms & Media reports that there are currently more than 100 million mobile users in Africa - up from 8 million in 2000, making Africa the fastest growing mobile market in the world. Through the new Mobile Doctors Network, Africa Aid harnesses the power of rapidly accelerating mobile technology to create a health infrastructure breakthrough in Africa.
The Africa Aid Approach
MDNet Ghana, launched on January 1st, 2008, in partnership with Ghana Onetouch, created the world’s first county-wide mobile doctors network in Africa. The program also created and distributed the first country-wide directory of physicians in Ghana, a directory which is also accessible from any location through call-in directory assistance. In addition, the program has allowed the Ghana Medical Association to easily send bulk text messages to all physicians in Ghana, improving country-wide emergency response capabilities and communication.
Africa Aid has additionally launched MDNet Liberia, operating since August 2008, in partnership with Lonestar Cell, a subsidiary of Africa's largest telecom, MTN.
Africa Aid believes that the true strength of MDNet program lies in the future integration of the program into American university classrooms. With access to data sets related to how doctors are communicating in Africa, students and faculty in university classrooms can better examine foreign healthcare strengths and shortcomings. From disease reporting to practitioner training, the network will enable better access to information and data exchange for health practitioners, organizations, and health ministries around the world. Africa Aid is actively seeking university partners to build out this component of the program in 2010.
Since the program’s inception, more than 1,900 physicians in Ghana have registered for the MDNet program and have logged more than a million calls. After only six months, each MDNet doctor made an average of 1hour and 15 minutes worth of calls per month to other doctors within the network, creating a total of 2,266 hours of medical discussion within Ghana in the month of June alone.
MDNet Liberia already has 100% of Liberian doctors linked on the free communication network. The initiative was executed in partnership with the Liberian Ministry of Health, the Liberian Medical & Dental Association, and the Liberian Medical Board. To continue with the success of the MDNet program, Africa Aid will be expanding MDNet into other African nations using the strength of several African telecom networks.