Amid COVID, Uganda sees increase in usage of digital health to access cardiovascular care – Republic World

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When the world is struggling with the COVID virus with the nations undertaking strict containment strategies, the patients with cardiovascular illnesses in Uganda are adopting new digital health services to obtain care. During an interview with Xinhua, Twalib Aliku, a consulting cardiologist at Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) Mulago, said that healthcare has the potential to enhance cardiovascular disease knowledge, prevention, and treatment. 
Ever since the first COVID case was reported in March 2020, Uganda has been under two strict lockdowns with several prevention strategies that include the suspension of public and private transportation, which has resulted in creating difficulties for the patients to access doctor’s appointments and therefore they used to miss the health care possibility. The Ministry of Health in Uganda reported that this has led to numerous deaths. 
As per the Ministry of Health, Uganda is continuing to see a rise in instances of cardiovascular disease as a result of changing lifestyles. Data from UHI shows that one out of every four individuals in Uganda has excessive blood pressure. 80% of them are completely ignorant that they have the illness. Emmy Okello, a consultant cardiologist at UHI Mulago said that the clinic sees approximately 100 and 300 patients each day on average, with over 70 being hospitalised, mostly refered rural hospitals. 
Emmy Okello further added that the total number of medical personnel and inpatients to treat other diseases had decreased as they were engaged in limiting the danger of COVID-19 propagation. Community engagement to raise awareness about heart disease prevention and management was also halted. As there was a risk of developing COVID, patients were also barred from receiving visits from their families. 
Aliku went on to add that patients had turned into using digital health applications to cover the gap in the availability of cardiovascular care due to the closure of various modes of transportation. As patients were not permitted to easily migrate across borders to see their doctors, patients received assistance by using modern digital means such as the internet and social media, so that they can communicate with the doctors. 
Aliku further added that the majority of the afflicted cardiac patients in the countryside were reached via mobile phones, video conferences, and webinars. He also informed that for the time being, outreaches have been substituted with webinars connecting the headquarters to other contact centres in various referral hospitals around the country. According to the Uganda Communications Commission, the COVID-19 outbreak has increased internet access because of the transformation in the working environment which requires individuals to work remotely.  
As to mark the ‘World Heart Day’ on September 29, Uganda will celebrate under the theme “Use Heart to Connect,” Aliku stated that communities would continue to raise awareness so that individuals may learn about the symptoms and treatment of cardiovascular disease. He believes that digital tools may help individuals, communities, and health care providers better prevent, diagnose, and treat cardiac problems. 
Meanwhile, In the last 24 hours, Uganda has reported nearly 64 COVID-19 cases. According to the latest numbers provided by the Worldometer, the total number of confirmed cases in the nation is 1,23,245 whereas the total number of fatalities is 3,146. 

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