By Oluwakemi Ishola
Researchers at the University of Ibadan have advised governments at all levels in Nigeria to put in place policy to regulate mobile phone consultation (mConsulting) in Nigeria’s health sector.
The researchers, Professor Akinyinka Omigbodun, Professor Eme Owoaje and Dr Funke Fayehun maintained that such policy is urgently needed to prevent users from becoming victims of cybercriminality through data privacy compromise and information vulnerability.
mConsulting is a process where individuals with perceived health need consults healthcare providers using mobile communication technology including asking a relative or community health worker to assist them with mConsulting.
This policy advice was contained in a policy brief written by Professor Akinyinka Omigbodun, Professor Eme Owoaje and Dr Funke Fayehun extracted from their research entitled “Mobile consulting as an option for communities with minimal healthcare access in low-resource settings” which was funded by UK MRC Foundation.
While noting the importance of mConsulting in making quality healthcare universally available in low resource settings like Nigeria, the team of experts however noted that policy gap exists in the provision of mConsulting in Nigeria which could produce unintended consequences on the health care.
“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. However, there is limited information about the regulatory framework”
According to them, health workers engaging in mConsulting without prior training may threaten the gains inherent in the health technology driven services.
“.mConsulting is currently being implemented despite the absence of an existing policy. A definite policy should be in place to regulate the use of information technology in health 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 remains a grave concern. Currently cybercrime is a major challenge for law enforcement agencies in Nigeria”