Last week I had the pleasure of having an email conversation with Emmanuel Narakobi, owner of Masalai blog. He asked me how Japan was and I briefly discussed how amazing it is that Japan, one of most industrialized and technologically advanced countries in the world have maintained their identity by strengthening their culture and traditions. In fact modern Japanese personal, social, academic or business interaction between individuals or organizations is governed by an unwritten code of conduct or code of ethics that is deeply rooted in their culture and tradition. And I very briefly mentioned about the use of information technology in Japan. That prompted me to reflect back on this particle subject, Internet in Papua New Guinea, in particular its usage among health care professionals. You can also read my article “Using Internet To Link People…..” for background information.
What Percentage Of Health Care Professionals Make Use Of The Internet?
There has been no survey done to find out, but if any has been done, I would assume that it was probably done as part of market research by Internet Service Providers (ISP). I posed this particular question to Masalai blog and found out that none of Masalai Communications clients are related to the health field. What a pity! So I also do not have the statistics. But what I do have is experience and would like to share that with you.
The practice of medicine is dictated by research, what is commonly referred to as “Evidence Based Medicine”. With the advancement in technology, research in the medical field has advanced into areas that 20 years ago were thought not possible. A very good example is the development of PCR, a tool and method for studying DNA. There have been also been advances in the areas of drug development, vaccines and much more. With advancement in IT and the Internet the dissemination of information from this kind of research have become fast and efficient. The results of a new research study are instantly available to millions of readers with the click of a button.
In Papua New Guinea, unfortunately, this kind of information can not be easily obtained due to the cost of Internet. My experience has been that although we know where to get the information we need, access to the Internet has been a problem. So regarding the question of “what percentage of health care professionals make use of Internet”, my guess would be that less than 50%! It’s not because of a lack of need. It’s because it’s very expensive. The desire is there. We know that we need new information. We need the Internet to access the information we require but it’s simply expensive to have Internet connection in your home. Our very profession, our job, how we diagnose, treat and advice patients is directly determined by properly researched data. And the latest data can only be obtained in medical journals, almost all of which have online editions. Some journals have realized the cost of obtaining journals by developing countries so have made them freely available on the web. Very good examples are those published by BMC.
An idea that I have been bouncing around in my head is that ISPs, along with hospitals, universities and other learning institutions can go into partnership and have something like an Internet café in their premises. The service can be charged at discounted rates for students, academics, doctors, nurses and others with ID cards. The ISPs can make up for the discounted rates by selling PC accessories that are often needed by students and other professionals (e.g. USB memory sticks, blank CDs, etc). Institutions or organizations who allow ISPs to set up these services in their premises can obtain a rental fee for the use the building space. I see a win-win situation here. Something for ISPs and IT companies in PNG to think about. What do you think should be done in the immediate future to allow Internet access to more people in PNG?
I wrote the original article back in 2007. It is now 2012 and I can truely say a lot has happened! Changes in ICT laws and policies in PNG has allowed more ISPs and it’s now a bit cheaper than 2007. Digicel has also made an huge impact to improve communication in the rural areas. PNG doctors can now access the internet on mobile phones and makes Telehealth a closer towards reality in PNG.
Well done to you all!
Thank you Rodney for the honour of being asked an important question such as that and I was equally saddened that I couldn’t give you a more inspiring answer.
I’ll definately let you know if I hear of any developments in internet usage for the health profession.
Thanks Emmanuel. I think its a question of making the internet more easily accessable at an affordable price.
I am very much interested in knowing how many health facilities in PNG have access of Telehealth and also how many health care professionals can actually have their hands on the computer. From my perception, telehealth can serve money and improve the care through efficient and accurate patient tracking and effective coordinated patient care. This is lacking even with our current system of health services. I am only aware of doctors in ENBP conducting vidoe conferencing when they have cases to manage with expert advise abroad.
I am not aware of any hospitals in PNG having telehealth fascilities. The ENBP one might be the first.
I am aware that Nonga, Mt.Hagen, Lae and recently PMGH have access to internet for health workers. I am not sure of the current state of affairs with regards to these services.
Rodney, thank you for informing the general public of the NEED FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS TO GET ONLINE.
When I did my volunteering at Modilon General Hospital (as a physiotherapist), some of the protocols we were using were either outdated or lacking for certain conditions. And although we’ve managed to have our database into our computer, we didn’t have internet access to hasten information dissemination. Divine Word University, although close by and has good internet connection, could only be accessed during our lunch hour because of the LOAD OF CLINICAL WORK we had to do. I would stay behind after 4.06 to finish up the paper work for patient documentation and teaching load. Our doctors did the same, and those who could afford it, had internet access at home, albeit slow…
Now that I’m back home in the Philippines, I find it a lot easier because certain areas in my country have FREE WI-FI, where speeds are in megabytes, not kilobytes! I’m not sure how much the infrastructure would cost, but I suggest that someone (I volunteer YOU) check it out with Singtel. After all, the Singapore telecommunications company is trying to partner with B-mobile, right?
I wish every health professional would be able to have wireless access to the internet because it is a good source of up-to-date, evidence-based protocols. (It’s good to know that Nonga, Mr. Hagen, Lae, and PMGH have access to internet for health workers. I hope it’s not just for personal use…) I’ve since changed my mind that even if all human bodies react in the same patterns physiologically, many advances, especially with food/technology help out in health conditions. And some conditions could even be discussed online and treated!
Marie, as you can cleary see, PNG is far behind the rest of Asian nations in terms of IT development and Internet access. I think PNG also need to strengthen economic and trade links with many of the Asian nations like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philipines and others. We have similar problems and PNG can see how these nations have overcome these problems and adapt similar approaches, albeit modified.
When it comes to IT and Internet access I am sure there are lot we can achieve in a short space of time if we work more closely with these nations to share knowledge and technology.