The cost-effectiveness of technology transfer using telemedicine

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The high burden of disease in developing countries often makes it difficult for health systems in these countries to attain the same level of specialist skills as industrialized countries. Technology transfer is one way to improve specialist skills whilst at the same time reducing the burden of disease. This paper describes the use of teleophthalmology, a form of telemedicine, as a mode of technology transfer between the United Kingdom and South Africa. As the burden of eye disease in South Africa is high, the country cannot afford the level of ophthalmic specialization achieved in the UK. The paper estimates the cost-effectiveness of the technology transfer project in terms of a cost per Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) averted. We found the technology transfer project to be cost-effective in reducing the burden of eye disease, and that practitioners in South Africa also learned novel procedures that could help future patients and improve cost-effectiveness. Technology transfer using telemedicine is a cost-effective method that richer countries can employ to aid capacity building in the health care systems of poorer countries.

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