Defined as “the use of information and telecommunication technologies (ICT) in medicine, telemedicine intends to provide appropriate healthcare at a distance, hence eliminating the need for direct contact between a patient and physician . It can be classified according to the type of interaction (pre-recorded or real-time) and type of format in which information is conveyed (videos, pictures, audio, etc.) . Particularly in the setting of a natural or man-made disaster, telemedicine is known to function as a key component in the emergency response, enabling people to access routine care and health support despite widespread disruptions in health services .
The relevance of telemedicine to our health systems is more evident than ever today as we continue to battle the COVID- 19 pandemic that has modified our lifestyle and approach to medical care. In the face of lockdowns and social distancing protocols, telemedicine technologies are being employed for online consultations, monitoring and evaluating symptoms, tracking and circumventing COVID-19 hotspots, and addressing individual concerns through chat bots .
Although the age of COVID-19 has significantly propelled the adoption of telemedicine services globally, its market was booming even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a market size estimated around US$50 billion as of 2019, projected to increase over 9-fold in the coming decade . A growing body of literature supports the role of telemedicine in providing timely, affordable, and premium quality healthcare services surpassing geographical barriers, which is especially advantageous for resource limited countries. However, while it is being integrated in the health infrastructure in USA, Europe and South East Asia with increasing momentum, its future in the developing world remains obscure .
Although the rate is considerably slower than developed countries, developing countries are gradually adapting to the changing times with efforts to make high-quality healthcare accessible to the masses from the comfort of their residence via digital interventions. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, has reported a significant increase in mobile health technology . The implementation of telemedicine amid a concomitant burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases in low and middle income countries (LMICs) can have consequential impacts in addressing the basic health needs of the population. By reducing travel costs and time, telemedicine enables rural and marginalized communities to access the same quality of medical resources and care as urban dwellers, and promotes health equity .