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With telemedicine, the doctor is no longer king – Dr Akinnuyi

By Charles Mgbolu & Chinwe Unachukwu

Perhaps, the giant strides made by IT in the Nigerian medical profession will never be fully understood until a personal visit is paid to a doctor. Dr. Olushola Akinnuyi is a consultant gynecologist and MD/CEO of Union Diagnostics & Clinical Services Plc. In this interview, he tells of the phenomenal changes that have taken place over the decade in a profession where once the doctor alone had been king. He says IT has broken the borderline of medical knowledge, giving access to everyone with a click of the mouse. Yet, the challenges remain. Excerpts:

Let us go back in time to the pre-GSM era before 2001, how was communication in your profession like?

That era was difficult. In the profession then, you were more or less on your own. It was particularly difficult for a doctor in Nigeria who has to make up his mind as to what ailment his patient is suffering from. He had to rely on his own skills without being able to consult conveniently with other colleagues for example, abroad. I remember in those days, even sending an ordinary telegram, you have to go to NITEL. If you are going to call or send something to the US, I think it was about two or three am in those days. It was really difficult. But now, everywhere is open, you’ll find patients that come to you now and they are even more knowledgeable than the doctor because they will have gone through what they suspect is their ailment on the internet and when they come, you’ll find out that they are abreast with every detail as far as that disease is concerned. Again, this has put we doctors and medical practitioners nationwide on the alert because they have to stay on top of the game. If I am going to be your doctor, I must know more than you do, I must keep on learning. Only then can we continue to be meaningful to our patients.

Are you saying that all doctors are taking this pain to be IT-compliant?

The phenomena of IT generally is age related. What my little children at home do with my computer or their computer, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do in months. So, at my age, I need to redefine by way of functionality what my request or requirements are because I don’t have the time. I think younger doctors, should have the time and have the skill because they are better suited to attain excellence in IT than the older ones. The older ones are perhaps preoccupied with other things or are at top management levels but then, they should buy into the IT idea.

Let’s talk about telemedicine. What actually is it and how popular is it presently in our country?

Let me use the area of diagnostics for an example. You examine a patient, you get your result


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