Geneva University Hospitals - RAFT Network
Since 2000, the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) have been involved in coordinating the development of a network for eHealth in Africa (the RAFT, Réseau en Afrique Francophone pour la Télémédecine), first in Mali, and now extending to 10 French-speaking African countries. The core activity of the RAFT is the webcasting of interactive courses. These sessions put the emphasis on knowledge sharing across care professionals, usually in the form of presentations and dialogs between experts in different countries. HUG considers humanitarian medicine one of their four priority areas of development.
Other activities of the RAFT network include visioconferences, teleconsultations based on the iPath system, collaborative knowledge bases development, support for medical laboratories quality control, and the evaluation of the use of telemedicine in rural areas (via satellite connections) in the context of multisectorial development. RAFT has established multi-site operations in 14 North, West and Central African countries, as well as in Madagascar. RAFT also has limited operations in Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo—the former Zaire—and is just beginning to connect a single location in Guinea.
Links to the health workforce crisis
The well-documented brain drain from Africa to Europe and America and the sheer size of the continent have left many African communities critically bereft of medical expertise, and clearly good candidates for telemedicine. When RAFT first began, the majority of consulting physicians were in Europe; but the pool of expertise has diversified now. The commission gives priority to projects of sustainable development and partnerships with organizations known in the fields of training, the transfer of knowledge and techniques, research, development and the rehabilitation of services and in collaboration with local institutions. Each year, about thirty missions, involving around fifty medical professionals are coming from HUG for activities in surgery (particularly in armed conflicts), in medicine (training programs or teaching) and, more recently, in telemedicine. Another key component of RAFT is distance learning.
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