Even limited telemedicine could improve developing health

December 21, 2011

A lack of infrastructure in developing countries, and particularly in rural areas, often ensures that healthcare provision is absent. Research published in the International Journal of Services, Economics and Management by a team at Howard University in Washington DC suggests a solution to this insidious problem involving the development of telemedicine.

Ronald Leach and colleagues describe a highly asynchronous service model for healthcare delivery. The approach is much cheaper to implement than direct medicine and even less expensive than other approaches to telemedicine that have been suggested for rural and developing parts of the world. The approach to rolling out their solution is entirely incremental and would provide improved health service even in the initial stages before the system is fully implemented, the team says. "Our proposed service model provides relatively comprehensive, but not universal, healthcare coverage," says Leach. "The application of current thinking in systems service engineering, when coupled with economic models of costs (in both monetary and resource areas), can help provide an extremely useful healthcare environment," he adds.

Telemedicine usually refers to the synchronous electronic communication of medical information - medical records, videos of complex procedures, training information, viewing of remote procedures and analysis etc . The promise is that telemedicine could bring medical expertise to remote areas without the expense and difficulties of trying to bring the experts to the patients or requiring many of those patients from such regions to central hospitals or clinics. There is also hope that telemedicine might allow epidemics to be more quickly contained as information is shared and emerging problems addressed more rapidly. This form of telemedicine is, however, expensive in itself and not amenable to the poor infrastructure of many rural developing communities.

Fundamentally, rural developing communities mostly do not have the information technology bandwidth to support synchronous telemedicine. However, there is often adequate technology for some communication and Leach and colleagues suggest that this might be exploited in asynchronous telemedicine.

Until now, there have been no viable models for overcoming the limitations inherent in existing communications infrastructure in Africa, and elsewhere. Leach suggests that a relatively low- cost solution makes use of existing communications channels, computing equipment, text messaging via cell phone, medical personnel and technical support service personnel and says that parts of the system are relatively easy-to-implement, at least from a technical perspective. The approach also exploits the daylight time difference between Africa and the US to utilise bandwidth on communications satellites at a time when US users are least active. There is in asynchronous telemedicine no need to network the computers just to provide each with access to the information via available satellite channels.

A nine-step example shows how asynchronous telemedicine might benefit a patient who is seen by a local healthcare worker or can reach a rural clinic.

1 The healthcare practitioner makes a preliminary analysis of the patient's condition and enters identifying information into a laptop or cell phone.

2 The healthcare practitioner connects a cell phone or laptop over underused satellite networks to the electronic healthcare records, EHRs, database stored somewhere in the cloud of servers in the USA.

3 The healthcare practitioner queries the EHRs database for information on this patient or on local outbreaks of relevant diseases.

4 A minimal, text-based set of information is sent to the healthcare practitioner's laptop or cell phone over the underused satellite network.

5 Based on the information received, the healthcare practitioner treats the patient. Medical supplies may be ordered if available.

6 If the medical situation can wait, the local healthcare provider asks for additional medical opinions from colleagues in his or her own county or in the USA.

7 After the patient is treated, the results of the treatment are uploaded by the healthcare practitioner to the patient's record stored in the cloud.

8 The process described in steps 1 to 7 are repeated if necessary.

9 Local public health officials are notified if appropriate.
-end-
"A service model for improving healthcare delivery in rural developing communities" in Int. J. Services, Economics and Management, 2012, 4, 75-92

Inderscience Publishers

Related Cell Phone Articles from Brightsurf:

Cell phone location used to estimate COVID-19 growth rates
Cell phone location data shows that in counties where activity declined at workplaces and increased at home, coronavirus infection rates were lower.

Study: Anonymized cell phone location data can help monitor COVID-19 growth rates
In a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers from Mount Auburn Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed anonymous, county-level cell phone location data and incidence of COVID-19.

To make a good impression, leave cell phone alone during work meetings
New hires especially should keep their cell phones stashed away during business meetings, a new study strongly implies.

Flat-panel technology could transform antennas, wireless and cell phone communications
Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are reinventing the mirror, at least for microwaves, potentially replacing the familiar 3-D dishes and microwave horns we see on rooftops and cell towers with flat panels that are compact, versatile, and better adapted for modern communication technologies.

Cell phone injuries
Cell phones are mainstays of daily life. This observational study analyzed 20 years of data on people who went to emergency departments with head and neck injuries from cell phone use to estimate the number of injuries, learn what types of injuries there were, and understand how the injuries occurred, such as from distracted driving or walking.

Cell phone-based microscope leads to possible strategy for treating river blindness
River blindness, or onchocerciasis, is a disease caused by a parasitic worm (Onchocerca volvulus) found primarily in Africa.

Cell phone data coupled with sewage testing show drug use patterns
The drugs people inhale, inject or ingest ultimately end up in some form down the toilet.

Cell phone use and distracted driving begins in the mind
Even simple cell phone conversations can cause distracted driving. Researchers have found listening on the phone while driving creates a lag in the mind to extract itself from one object before fixing attention on another object.

What motivates parents to protect children from cell phone addiction?
A new study examined the role parental mediation can play in protecting children from the potential negative effects of smartphone use, comparing the perceived risk and different types of mediation and parenting styles.

Catching the IMSI-catchers: SeaGlass brings transparency to cell phone surveillance
University of Washington security researchers have developed a new system called SeaGlass to detect anomalies in the cellular landscape that can indicate where and when IMSI-catchers, cell-site simulators and other devices used in cell phone surveillance are present.

Read More: Cell Phone News and Cell Phone Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.