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Project information

the Virtual Doctors, Africa

the Virtual Doctors is a telemedicine health service which uses local mobile broadband networks in Africa to connect rural clinics with doctors in the UK, for diagnostic and treatment advice. Started in Zambia the expanding service aims to help and support primary healthcare in remote areas.


Charity information: the Virtual Doctors

the Virtual Doctors logo
  • Need


    There is a lack of primary healthcare available to rural communities in many parts of Africa due to their geographical isolation, shortage of doctors, and lack of resources.

    In Zambia:
    • one in nine children will not reach the age of five (UNICEF 2011)

    • 14% of the adult population* are HIV Positive (UNICEF 2010) *(Aged 15-49)

    • For a population of over14 million there are only around 1600 registered doctors (MOH Zambia).


    Our service offers diagnostic advice across many specialisms including child and maternal health, and makes a contribution towards to the health of communities severely affected by HIV/Aids and other more treatable diseases such as Malaria. By enabling remote access to the skills and experience of medical professionals in the UK (our volunteer ‘Virtual Doctors’) via the local mobile broadband network, the service aims to help health workers reduce patient referrals to distant hospitals.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Offering easy access for remote health workers in Africa to seek advice from medical experts in UK


    » Providing digital connectivity through issue of our small handheld devices and simple but effective telemedicine software via mobile network
    » Plan and expedite the delivery of our service into health centres across rural Zambia and expand into new areas in Africa going forward
    » To collaborate closely with local health ministries and authorities to provide our service to those in greatest need.

    What success will look like

    Success will be shown by:- the number of cases we receive; recording the wider range of conditions treated locally; patient follow up and ongoing feedback from Clinical Officers.

    Aim 2

    Reduce the number of referrals required to distant hospitals


    » Giving access to diagnostic advice locally could mean more patients will be dealt with in their community instead of being referred elsewhere.

    What success will look like

    Monitoring and evaluation of patient cases and diagnosis outcomes and patient followup.

    Aim 3

    Support, motivate and improve the skills of hard-working clinic staff in rural Africa


    » Offer a channel for advice and learning
    » Train local health professionals to use our service and add knowledge to their skill set
    » Provide speedy and easy access to pre-approved educational healthcare information via our issued handheld devices

    What success will look like

    Stakeholder collaboration and involvement; Clinical Officer engagement; ie service level usage; training and by maintaining and updating the informational tools.

  • Impact


    Reduce unnecessary referrals for the patient - monitoring and evaluation of cases submitted and ongoing dialogue with the Clinical Officer.
    Delivery of a free telemedicine service into the heart of rural healthcare in Africa - demonstrated by the number of sites receiving it and the receptiveness of the local authorities to welcome it.
    Offering an accessible educational channel to underpin healthcare knowledge for Clinical Officers through interactive training - listening to feedback.


    Lack of funding may impede scalability - we strive to maintain a high awareness of our service to win resourcing and encourage donor loyalty.
    Technology is constantly evolving - our software is adaptable, monitored and has a high level of security protection
    Equipment issued is vulnerable but we issue guidelines, give training and take steps to minimise the risk of abuse or misuse.
    We have organisational policies in place and regularly update our risk register


    We value all supporters and they will receive a good level of stewardship. All supporters receive a monthly email newsletter detailing the progress and topical updates and some will receive tailored reports. Information is available through our website news blog and our social media pages.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £136,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £136,000 Project Costs Zambia and UK

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Trust and Foundations £25,000 Guaranteed
    Philanthropists £15,000 Guaranteed
    Individual donors £8,000 Guaranteed
    Corporate £12,000 Guaranteed
  • Background


    In rural Zambia we offer the service into 20 Health Centres and 2 hospitals. These are in Kafue, Kazungula, Chilanga and Chongwe Districts. We are trialling the service in Mtwara District in Tanzania and are scoping out expansion both in Zambia and Tanzania going forward. We can only deliver the service where there is a reliable mobile service but there is extensive coverage in rural areas in Zambia so our service is very scalable.


    The local populations in the catchment areas of the Districts we serve. In Zambia, for example, this is potentially reaching approximately a 1 million strong rurally located and disbursed population.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    As a UK Charity with Trustees/staff with many years experience of working in Zambia, IT and public health, our unique skill set makes us best placed to use technology in a low-resource setting like Zambia to help improve public healthcare. We have negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the Zambian Ministry of Health and have the support of that department.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Huw Jones - Executive Director.

    Huw has over 16 years’ experience working in Africa in tourism, in education development and social development projects for rural areas.

    Board Of Trustees

    The Trustees, led by Ian Kerr, Chair have a wealth of experience encompassing, business, technology, fundraising and international affairs.

Using the mobile network in Zambia to save lives


will pay for mobile broadband equipment