The Virtual Doctors


We are a UK-based charity with a Zambian operation. We use a Smartphone App to connect isolated health centres in rural Zambia with volunteer doctors, based predominantly in the UK.

The volunteer doctors offer advice to diagnose conditions, treat patients and prescribe medicine. This assists and empowers the Zambian health workers, and even helps saves lives. The App also reduces the number of hospital referrals that would incur long, arduous journeys and unmanageable expense.

Our aim To help improve the local primary healthcare in some of the most remote and impoverished areas of sub-Saharan Africa. We believe this model could be adopted across Africa, making a significant impact on healthcare throughout the region and beyond.

The Model Our highly accessible and user-friendly software, in the form of an App loaded onto a Smartphone, links workers in rural clinics to volunteer doctors. We provide training from the outset as well as sustained medical and technical support, education and feedback.

Our impact We have equipped healthcare workers in more than 140 health facilities with the App-loaded Smartphones. More are being set up in a rolling expansion programme funded entirely through the generosity of our supporters. We have also equipped a further 6 rural Health Centres in Malawi. These facilities serve as many as 2.5 million people with no direct access to a qualified doctor. Survey results, as of March 2020, show that using the Virtual Doctors service:

  • Improved a patient’s symptoms in 92% of cases
  • Prevented the need for a hospital referral in 78% of cases
  • Provided an educational benefit in 97% of cases

Our plans In Zambia, we are in the process of embedding the Virtual Doctors service into the Zambian Health Care system. Then we will scale back our support, leaving the local authorities to take over the service. This strategy will initially involve expansion to 200 clinics & hospitals by the end of 2020. Once institutionalised into the health system, we can then take the working model and implement it in other countries in the region, moulding it to meet their telemedicine/ehealth needs.

Zambia operation

We are a UK-based charity with a Zambian operation. We use a Smartphone App to connect isolated health centres in rural Zambia with volunteer doctors, based predominantly in the UK.

The volunteer doctors offer advice to diagnose conditions, treat patients and prescribe medicine. This assists and empowers the Zambian health workers, and even helps saves lives. The App also reduces the number of hospital referrals that would incur long, arduous journeys and unmanageable expense.

Our aim To help improve the local primary healthcare in some of the most remote and impoverished areas of sub-Saharan Africa. We believe this model could be adopted across Africa, making a significant impact on healthcare throughout the region and beyond.

The Model Our highly accessible and user-friendly software, in the form of an App loaded onto a Smartphone, links workers in rural clinics to volunteer doctors. We provide training from the outset as well as sustained medical and technical support, education and feedback.

Our impact We have equipped healthcare workers in more than 140 health facilities with the App-loaded Smartphones. More are being set up in a rolling expansion programme funded entirely through the generosity of our supporters. We have also equipped a further 6 rural Health Centres in Malawi. These facilities serve as many as 2.5 million people with no direct access to a qualified doctor. Survey results, as of March 2020, show that using the Virtual Doctors service:

  • Improved a patient’s symptoms in 92% of cases
  • Prevented the need for a hospital referral in 78% of cases
  • Provided an educational benefit in 97% of cases

Our plans In Zambia, we are in the process of embedding the Virtual Doctors service into the Zambian Health Care system. Then we will scale back our support, leaving the local authorities to take over the service. This strategy will initially involve expansion to 200 clinics & hospitals by the end of 2020. Once institutionalised into the health system, we can then take the working model and implement it in other countries in the region, moulding it to meet their telemedicine/ehealth needs.

COVID-19 Response Fund

The Virtual Doctors’ COVID-19 Response Fund has been launched to support our ongoing partnership with the Zambian Government and their efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.

It will also ensure that we can continue to provide vital tele-medical and educational support to the 140 health centres we work with in rural Zambia.

The Plan WASH Initiative: As no vaccine exists to prevent COVID-19, the best way to prevent it is to avoid being exposed to it in the first place: hand washing and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces are of vital importance.

Solution We aim to provide the 140 health centres we support with foot-operated hand washing basins that can be used by both staff and patients.

Up to 150 patients will visit each health centre every day!

It is therefore essential that we also provide enough soaps, sanitisers, cleaning and disinfecting products to account for this.

We intend to provide an initial 3 month supply of these products and this initiative will then be taken up by the Ministry of Health.

Education Initiative: Another crucial component of what we do is our virtual education hub that aims to support the clinical officers with their ongoing education and professional development.

Our specific plans under this initiative focus on developing resources to help the clinical officers on the ground with managing the emerging situation within Zambia.

Solution: Working closely with the Zambian Ministry of Health, we aim to produce and share resources that address the COVID-19 pandemic, looking specifically at how it can be managed in low resource settings like rural Zambia.

We will add and develop appropriate online education resources that will include websites, videos, podcasts and open access e-learning modules.

We will use our telemedicine portal to offer appropriate infection prevention and control advice to the clinical officers we work with and also distribute appropriate health promotion posts to the health centres.