Building the Capacity to Build Capacity in eHealth in sub-Saharan Africa: The KwaZulu-Natal Experience.
Background: Sub-Saharan Africa has a disproportionate burden of disease and an extreme shortage of health workers. There are already too few doctors to train doctors in specialities and sub-specialties. E-health is seen as a possible solution through distance education, telemedicine, and computerized health information systems but there are few people trained in e-health. We describe 12 years of experience at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZ-N) in education and training in postgraduate medical disciplines, medical informatics, and telemedicine. Medical Education: Videoconferencing of seminars and grand rounds to regional training hospitals commenced in 2001 and has grown to 40 h of interactive conferencing taking place weekly during academic terms involving over 33,000 participants in 2010. Videoconferenced sessions are directly recorded to DVD and DVDs are sent to other medical schools in Africa that do not have the infrastructure to directly connect. E-health Education: Students and academic staff were initially sent to the United States for training in medical informatics and workshops were held in South Africa for people from sub-Saharan Africa. This led to the development of postgraduate academic programs in medical informatics and telemedicine at UKZ-N. African students were then brought to UKZ-N for training. The model was changed from UKZ-N to students and staff based at their home universities with the aim of building capacity in the staff at partner institutions so that they can in time offer their own e-health academic programs. Conclusions: The need for capacity development in all aspects of e-health in sub-Saharan Africa is great and innovative solutions are required.