According to the United Nations Development Programme, more than 400-million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to good health care, representing nearly half of the global total without this essential service.

The UNDP’s latest Insurance and Risk Finance report highlights the convergence of business, health and technology. It suggests that virtual healthcare or telemedicine, could extend affordable health insurance to 186-million people in the region, effectively halving the current healthcare gap.

These statistics underscore the potential of virtual healthcare in driving significant social change across Southern Africa.

Virtual healthcare or telemedicine, the use of telecommunications technology to provide remote healthcare services, is seen by many as transformative.

Communities across Southern Africa have traditionally struggled with access to quality healthcare, mostly due to how remote they are. When coupled with poverty, and challenges arising from geo-political conflicts, it has been near impossible for many people to access (often) life-saving care.

However, virtual healthcare is shifting this landscape. Digital health solutions are successfully offering tangible infrastructure and world-class care to traditionally underserviced populations by bringing the solutions to them.

One of the key advantages of telemedicine is its ability to facilitate medical testing and diagnosis in areas where such services were previously unavailable. With the integration of virtual health technologies, patients can undergo diagnostic tests and receive accurate results without having to travel long distances.

This is especially crucial in the early detection and management of diseases, and contributes significantly to improved health outcomes.

However, the success of telemedicine initiatives heavily relies on reliable connectivity, particularly in remote areas where conventional infrastructure is lacking. Satellite connectivity has emerged as a critical tool in bridging the digital divide. It is key to enabling seamless communication between healthcare providers and patients regardless of how remote the location is.

Commenting on the importance of reliable satellite connectivity for virtual healthcare projects, Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON, says: “Satellite connectivity serves as the backbone of telemedicine initiatives in Africa. By leveraging satellite technology, we can ensure that healthcare services reliably and effectively reach remote communities, ultimately saving lives and improving healthcare outcomes.”

Q-KON’s Smart Satellite Solution Twoobii has been instrumental in powering virtual healthcare projects across Southern Africa, including the successful Doc-2U product managed by Atlantic Healthcare. Doc-2U is a doctor led, evidence-based platform that supplies comprehensive digital healthcare services to underserved communities.

Douglas Reed, MD of Atlantic Healthcare, emphasises the importance of virtual healthcare in addressing health and medical challenges.

“Virtual healthcare can unlock quality healthcare for hundreds of thousands of people who have traditionally been underserviced. Innovative virtual solutions can democratise healthcare by making quality medical services accessible, regardless of location or socio-economic status.”

De Wet adds: “Telecommunication technology and healthcare partnerships are playing a transformative role in Southern Africa’s healthcare landscape. By leveraging the power of reliable satellite connectivity, stakeholders in the healthcare sector are making access to healthcare a tangible reality for many across the continent.”