The hospital was the first one to be established in Gabon nearly 100 years ago and continues the work of its founder, Albert Schweitzer (for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952). It operates “on the front lines…against malaria, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and threats to maternal/child health,” and its Medical Research Unit is recognized as a leading institution in Africa seeking a malaria vaccination. It has an international staff and Board of African, European, and American partners.
Our job at HAS was three-fold:
1. to work with the hospital IT to bring more bandwidth into the hospital – including satellite, 3G, DSL (this month), microwave (July 2013), and fiber (early 2014)
2. to deploy VSee telemedicine systems including remote ultrasound
3. to shadow doctors and nurses in order to understand their work flow and operating environments so that video conference and telemedicine can be organically embedded into the new hospital they are building for their centennial celebration next year
The metric of success would be a decrease in maternal and infant deaths. This goal was brought home to us on our very first day in Gabon when we were met with a woman’s death in the hospital. We worked with this in mind for the rest of the trip as we set up and trained the maternity ward staff to use the VSee telemedicine kit with an ultrasound probe. Their ultrasound machine had not been working properly for some time, so the nurses and midwives were ecstatic when we showed them how just a simple GlobalMed ultrasound probe connected to a laptop could do a live scan.
During the training, we used VSee to connect them with Dr. Steve Ralston, head of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Then one of the nurses did an ultrasound scan on a patient while being directed by him. This on-hands training with a doctor live from Harvard made them even more excited about the possibilities of providing world-class care and saving more lives in a challenging environment.
VSee’s low-bandwidth capacity and multiple video streams make it perfect for
- receiving training on how to use the ultrasound probe
- doing remote consultations with a doctor in Harvard (or anywhere in the U.S. or Europe and getting a second opinion on difficult cases
Here we are surrounded by about 10 enthusiastic nurses and midwives as we connected to the Head of Maternity at Harvard with VSee.
In the above 2 pictures, the midwife is doing an ultrasound scan on a patient as Dr. Ralston, asks her to show him the head and the heart. The smile on the mother’s face was priceless when she saw her baby’s heart beating =)
Our project would not be possible without the leadership and support of Dr. Lachlan Forrow (HAS President), Dr. Antoine Nziengui (HAS Director General), Bertrand Lell (HAS IT director), Ardile Bongo (HAS IT wizard), Marcelle Mortes (HAS head nurse), Daisy Duru (Albert Schweitzer Public Health Fellow and our hostess), Scott Johnson (MTNGS satellite wizard who traveled with us to Gabon) and companies MTN GS, GlobalMed, Interson, and MDLive.
You can also learn more about VSee telemedicine here.
Acknowledgements updated Nov. 30. 2012