Washington D.C., USA (27 February, 2023) – Two World Bank “Planning National Telemedicine and Health Hotline Services” toolkits were launched today at an event hosted in Washington, D.C. and accessed virtually across the world.
The two toolkits, one for governments and another for service providers, detail the key steps low- and middle-income countries need to consider when planning national telemedicine and health hotline services. They include useful checklists and templates for contracts, terms of reference, strategy and implementation planning, costing, and questionnaires that can be easily adapted for country contexts.
The toolkits were prepared by VillageReach, and produced by The World Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Libya. They are an output of the Libya Health Sector Support Grant program. Joaquin Blaya (consultant, World Bank) oversaw the technical development of the toolkits.
At today’s event, The World Bank, The Libyan Government, VillageReach and other telehealth experts highlighted the importance of telemedicine in increasing access to quality health care and the role that these toolkits can play.
“What’s critical and what these toolkits really address is that health services that are stewarded by the government, so health hotline services and telemedicine services that a government takes ownership of and then are embedded into public health, are more likely to be sustained. There’s also a need for private sector partnerships that help with implementation, scale and sustainability,” said Ali Habib, World Bank.
“When we have a successful enabling environment for telemedicine interventions, we often can see a spectrum of success across the types of telemedicine services that can be deployed by our clients. It’s really exciting to build not only that environment so that we can allow these innovations, whether they’re happening in the public sector or being provided to private providers, to be able to succeed,” said Matt Hulse, a Senior Health Specialist at the World Bank.
Carla Blauvelt, VillageReach’s Acting Vice President of Global Programs, noted that VillageReach developed these toolkits by drawing from successful implementations of telemedicine solutions with the governments in Malawi and Mozambique, which rely upon radical collaboration with both governments and the private sector.
This includes Health Center by Phone, an integrated health hotline and messaging program that began first as a pilot in one district in Malawi in 2011 as Chipatala cha pa Foni (CCPF) and has since expanded nationwide and transitioned to the Malawi Ministry of Health to become part of the national health system.
“Telemedicine or health hotline services are a massive undertaking, and they really require careful planning and a structured approach. For governments, the toolkits help plan for sustainable telemedicine and health hotline services. We’ve found that in order for sustainability to really be possible, the private sector has to be involved. Often private sectors struggle working with governments and these toolkits provide practical advice for how to collaborate with governments.”
“The toolkits take into account how to plan for different health topics and technical capabilities. It also takes into account expansion on geographic scope and cost,” said Steven Simkonda, ICT Specialist, who led the technical aspects of transitioning and scaling Health Center by Phone in Malawi.
As we work towards Universal Health Coverage, telehealth is a key component of solving the health information gap, allowing everyone to have access to accurate and important health information to make informed decisions about health.
“Our vision is that every country has an integrated online telemedicine telehealth and messaging service that allows people to access accurate and timely health information that connects them to the government services. It provides governments with the data needed to predict and respond to outbreaks and also supports community feedback loops on services provided. In a nutshell, we call it a health center in your hands or in every home,” said Carla Blauvelt.
The World Bank’s Planning National Telemedicine and Health Hotline Services toolkits for Governments and Service Providers are available to download now.
Click for more information about Health Center by Phone here.
VillageReach transforms health care delivery to reach everyone, so that each person has the health care needed to thrive. We develop solutions that improve equity and access to primary health care. This includes making sure products are available when and where they are needed and primary health care services are delivered to the most under-reached. Radical collaboration with governments, the private sector and other partners strengthen our ability to scale and sustain these solutions. Our work increases access to quality health care for 58 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.