Telemedicine presents an unique opportunity for developing countries to improve their quality of health care to remote areas. In PNG we currently have a problem of doctor shortage (both generalists and specialists), no proper roads and isolated communities in the interior of the country as well on remote islands which do not have the chance to to be seen by a doctor.
Telemedicine has the capacity to enable doctors in referral hospitals or base hospitals to provide specialist health services to such communities without even leaving their hospitals. Furthermore, telemedicine can help other health workers (eg HEOs) or junior doctors working in smaller hospitals by strengtening their own abilities to diagnose difficult cases. For example, when an X-ray or other patient information is sent (electronically) to a specialist in a base hospital is confirmed as the same diagnosis initially made by the referer, the referer gains confidence in his/her own ability to diagnosis difficult cases in the future. This process also allows continuing medical education for health workers in remote locations and promotes networking both nationally as well as internationally.
In this post I provide some examples of telemedicine practised in some developing countries and briefly explain each one. I must also thank Kurt Brauchli, technical coordinator and software development personal of the iPath project at the University of Basel who introduced me to the network in Solomon Islands and the iPath website. Kurt helped set up the Solomon Islands Telemedicine Network.
Solomon Islands Telemedicine Network– This is a joint project of the National Referral Hospital in Honiara, South Pacific Medical Projects and the University of Basel. Here is the overview of the network. Visit their website for more information.
Kurt assisting with the histopathology laboratory in Solomon Islands. My friend and colleage Dr Roger Maraka (standing) looks on. He is now the pathologist in Solomon Islands. The first for the country and he was trained in Papua New Guinea.
West African Doctors & Healthcare Professionals Network– A virtual meeting place for doctors and other health-care professionals to share information and knowledge.
Telemedicine Africa – A web based patient consultation and training service tailored to needs of local communities in Africa.
HealthNet Nepal – A telemedicine pilot project in Nepal.
TelMedPak – A site by dedicated individuals creating awareness in Pakistan using information communication technologies.
SDNP Bangladesh – A project by Sustainable Development Networking Programme Bangladesh and funded by European Commission under the Asia IT&C programme.
These are but some of the examples of telemedicine and how it can be applied in developing countries. I think telemedicine has a role in Papua New Guinea. One of the main task I think would be to tailor telemedicine services to our needs and according to our budget.
There are many challenges for telemedicine in developing countries and this will be the subject of my next post.