Researchers at the University of Ibadan have advised governments at all levels to make a policy to regulate healthcare mobile consulting (mConsulting) in the health sector.
Prof. Akinyinka Omigbodun, Prof. Eme Owoaje and Dr Funke Fayehun of the University of Ibadan, made this observation in a news conference in Ibadan on Monday.
They maintained that such policy would be needed to prevent users from becoming victims of cyber criminality through data privacy compromise and information vulnerability.
“mConsulting is a process where individuals with perceived health needs consult healthcare providers using mobile communication technology, including asking a relative or community health worker to assist them with mConsulting,’’ Omigbodun explained.
The trio discussed on “mobile consulting as an option for communities with minimal healthcare access in low-resource settings’’ funded by the UK Medical Research Council Foundation.
They cautioned that the importance of mConsulting in making quality healthcare universally available in low resource settings like Nigeria required regulations.
They also stated that there were policy gaps in the provision of mConsulting in Nigeria which could produce unintended consequences on the healthcare.
“The rapid expansion in the use of mobile communication technology in Nigeria provides an additional platform for mConsulting for improving access to quality healthcare and mitigating health disparities but there is limited information about the regulatory framework,’’ Omigbodun said.
According to them, health workers engaging in mConsulting without prior training, may threaten the gains inherent in health technology driven services.
“mConsulting is currently being implemented in spite of the absence of an existing policy.
“A definite policy should be in place to regulate the use of information technology in health sector which could be incorporated within the existing ICT policy document.
“Policy should assure quality in digital healthcare using the principles that already govern the healthcare consultation such as professionalism and confidentiality.
“Data privacy and vulnerability of clients’ information to data theft remain a grave concern; currently, cybercrime is a major challenge for law enforcement agencies in Nigeria,’’ Omigbodun said.