In the bustling city of Lomé, Togo, a healthcare revolution is underway. Dokita Eyes, an innovative health technology initiative, is taking on the formidable task of transforming access to healthcare in this West African nation. However, behind their noble mission lie several challenges that the team at Dokita Eyes must navigate to bring about lasting change.

Dokita Eyes, meaning “Doctor’s Eyes” in the local language (Ewe) mixed with English, is an ambitious project that leverages the power of telemedicine and artificial intelligence to bridge the healthcare gap in Togo. With a shortage of medical professionals and limited access to quality healthcare services, many communities in Togo face significant challenges in receiving timely and accurate medical care. Dokita Eyes, launched since 2015, aims to address these issues by providing virtual consultations and diagnostic support through a user-friendly mobile application.

“Dokita Eyes does not replace medical consultation. Rather, it makes it possible to follow the progress of a patient’s treatment even from a distance”, specifies Agbétiafa Koffivi, the promoter of the application.

It allows in particular “the patients to save their symptoms, to take notes” and “the health professional to properly document the patients’ treatments”, he explained, about the app considered as a confidential digital health record.

Who works with Dokita Eyes ?

Dokita Eyes relies on a network of doctors who review patient data and provide recommendations through the platform. The team is actively collaborating with medical institutions and professional associations in Togo to attract skilled professionals and ensure the highest standard of care.

“With the aim of facilitating access to health care, we launched the concept of the Medical Facilitator. The mission of the Medical Facilitator (FM) is to allow the patient to have easier access to care in a hospital environment. It accompanies vulnerable patients (elderly people, pregnant women, children and people with disabilities) free of charge throughout their medical journey in the hospital.”

The challenges

One of the major hurdles faced by Dokita Eyes is the lack of reliable internet connectivity in certain parts of Togo. This is the case of a user who currently resides in Djagblé, a suburb located northeast of the capital Lomé.

“I am extremely satisfied with this application which provides me with great support. In fact, I feel safe with it. The feedback is always fast, but the only problem I have is related to the Internet connection. Not only is it expensive, but sometimes there is even no network signal at all,” Nestor, a thirty-six-year-old man told AfrikPage on Tuesday. He said he has no intention of even getting rid of the app, especially since it is the only way for him to ensure that his 3-year-old daughter is regularly monitored. “We need more technologies like this. And I believe that the higher the demand, the more we will have.”

Dokita Eyes user © AfrikPage

While major cities like Lomé have relatively good internet infrastructure, rural areas, where this technology is more needed, still suffer from limited access to stable internet connections. This poses a significant barrier to implementing telemedicine solutions effectively, as a stable and high-speed internet connection is crucial for real-time consultations and data transmission.

Moreover, Dokita Eyes must overcome the skepticism and cultural resistance towards technology-driven healthcare solutions. Traditional beliefs and practices often hold sway in many communities, making it challenging to convince people to trust virtual consultations over face-to-face interactions with healthcare professionals. The team at Dokita Eyes is actively working on community engagement initiatives, partnering with local leaders and organizations to raise awareness and build trust in their services.

“Unsurprisingly, we meet people who raise concerns. The problem is only due to the low technological development in our small country. But we will not stop urging them to try the app,” said one of Dokita Eyes’ agents.

Financial sustainability is also a pressing concern for Dokita Eyes. While their services are offered at affordable rates, generating sufficient revenue to cover operational costs remains a constant challenge. The initiative relies on a combination of government grants, partnerships, and philanthropic support to sustain its operations. Securing long-term funding and exploring innovative revenue models are crucial to ensure the continued success and growth of Dokita Eyes.

Despite these challenges, the initiative has made remarkable progress in improving healthcare access in Togo. Through their efforts, underserved communities now have a lifeline to quality medical care, reducing the burden on overburdened clinics and hospitals. The initiative has received recognition both locally and internationally.

As Dokita Eyes continues to push the boundaries of technological innovation in healthcare, they remain steadfast in their commitment to surmounting the obstacles that lie ahead. By actively engaging communities, collaborating with medical professionals, and seeking sustainable funding, Dokita Eyes is poised to revolutionize healthcare delivery in Togo and serve as a shining example for the rest of the continent.

Last week, Dokita Eyes released a new update. The new version will allow its hundreds of thousands users to link their insurance company directly to their patient account. In the face of adversity, Dokita Eyes stands as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path towards a brighter, healthier future for all Togolese citizens and beyond.