Towards virtual doctor consultations: A call for the scale-up of telemedicine in sub-Saharan Africa during COVID-19 lockdowns and beyond
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The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in adoption and implementation of mitigatory policies, including movement restrictions (lockdowns) to curb its spread. These lockdowns have brought unintended consequences such as increasing the inequalities in health delivery. In the context of these restrictions, telemedicine provides an opportunity for continuation of essential health care provision. This review aimed to map available literature on the current status of telemedicine in sub-Saharan Africa to proffer recommendations for scale up during COVID-19 and beyond. Our review highlighted the lack of meaningful investment in the area. The literature identified resistance to telemedicine, infrastructural barriers, and the lack of policy and budgetary support as main deterrents to current implementation. We recommend the region to leverage on the rapid expansion of internet and telecommunication in addition to adopting a mix of strategies to set up an infrastructure for providing scale up of telemedicine and overcome barriers to implementation. There is an urgent need for policy formulation and the provision of budgetary support through sustainable business models.