THET is collaborating with Medicine Africa to deliver an innovative online medical distance learning platform.

The digital revolution is changing the way individuals and institutions work, and not least within healthcare. The insufficient supply and training of health workers is being addressed by a unique internet based platform by connecting health workers in Somaliland with their counterparts in the UK to deliver real-time, clinical-based education to train and provide mentoring for health workers. The platform enables the running of live courses and mentoring sessions that enable healthcare workers to teach and receive appropriate and contextualized healthcare education, wherever they may be.

Managed by King’s College in London, the MedicineAfrica online learning platform is specifically designed around the needs of the Somaliland health workforce and it works well in low-bandwidth settings. Online training and support is provided for a wide range of health workers including doctors, nurses, midwives, to university teaching faculty, as well as students of medicine, nursing, midwifery and public health. Online teaching is text based, with options to add slides and/or upload medical case studies.

Short courses are run to supplement or fill gaps in the current teaching curriculums and most teaching takes place through online tutorials which are between one and two hours long. Most Tutorials are often part of a course focusing on a particular subject such as radiology, obstetric emergencies or communication skills. Tutors can prepare slides or a student can put forward a medical case to discuss.

Online mentoring pairs health workers at partner institutions with a senior mentor in the UK to explore issues of professional development. It supports health practitioners with leadership and management training, or provides peer to peer guidance, for instance a junior doctor can be supported in setting up mental health services, or leadership training can be provided to junior doctors.

To ensure that the service would be appropriate for the Somaliland setting, a survey showed that medical students in Somaliland had sufficient computer access to make use of the platform and the regular weekly teaching sessions. As well as north-south teaching, the platform has also been employed to support a study module in London. This reciprocal collaboration strengthens the role of partnership in which both parties benefit.

 Dr Jibril Handuleh, one of Somaliland’s first Doctors states, “I am sure [MedicineAfrica] has shaped my leadership role and coordination and will continue to influence me for decades to come. MedicineAfrica made careers, connected doctors and nurses and empowered health care professionals in the fragile states in which it operates.”

Achievements to date:

  • Weekly case based teaching in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Paediatrics, Psychiatry, Medicine and Surgery to final year medical students and graduating doctors in Somaliland (representing >2,000 clinical hours).
  • Mentoring for doctors and other health cadres by UK psychiatrists.
  • A peer to peer learning partnership (Aqoon) between King’s College London medical students and Somaliland medical students.
  • Collaborative service development for new mental health services in Borama, Somaliland.
  • 1,000 staff involved in contributing to live case-based mentoring and teaching, as well as static online resources.
  • £200,000 worth of UK hospital staff time contributed to the Somaliland Health System.
  • The removal of barriers to volunteering at a reduced economic, environmental and personnel cost to UK.
  • 4 x published pilot research studies including Somali authors.
  • Qualitative and quantitative evaluation data showing our impact in improving knowledge, reducing isolation and contributing to the design of services. 

To find out more about Medicine Africa, visit their website.