Costs and Benefits of Teleradiology in South Africa

K.H. Tiedemann (Canada)


Primary care, cost benefit analysis, teleradiology, South Africa.


South Africa faces a growing health care crisis. Mortality rates have been increasing quickly with negative impacts on individuals, families and the society. Although government and private expenditures on health care have been growing rapidly, they have not grown as quickly as health care needs, with a resulting gap between health care needs and health care delivery. Telemedicine is one mechanism that can help to fill the gap between needs and delivery. This paper examines the teleradiology component of South African Telemedicine System, with a focus on the costs and benefits of teleradiology compared to traditional on site provision of diagnostic services. The paper finds that for each of the seven sites examined, unit costs are substantially higher than unit benefits, but it also offers three caveats. First, the analysis covers the start up period of the program, and higher volumes would improve the economics of teleradiology. Second, teleradiology serves as a means of providing radiologists with on-going training and upgrading of professional skills and these potential benefits have not been examined. Third, improved diagnostic activities may lead to better or more timely treatment with consequent improvements in mortality and morbidity.

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