Expectations in Telemedicine for Developing Countries

With the recent developments in machines that can perform surgeries remotely, Telemedicine seems to be an unstoppable force in the future of health care. However, this unstoppable force still has to overcome issues in infrastructure, funding, culture, literacy, and countless other obstacles before it can reach its full potential. While reading out case study on the use of Telemedicine in Ethiopia I found myself exactly which branches stood the best chance of being implemented in a developing nations, and which among those were the most valuable. Considering those two questions, I found that the following were likely to be the most important for rural areas of developing countries:

  • Telepathology – the transfer of image-rich pathology data between distant locations for the purposes of diagnosis, education, and research
  • Telepharmacy – drug therapy monitoring, patient counseling, prior authorization, refill authorization, monitoring formulary compliance with the aid of teleconferencing

Obviously, these two branches do not cover all of the healthcare needs for rural patients, but both go a long way in providing convenience to rural citizens with minimal infrastructure needs. Telepathology in particular can prevent rural citizens from making long trips to the city to solve minor problems, and telepharmacy can help deliver and renew prescriptions for basic ailments. With the use of telepathology, local clinics can send images to doctors across the world along with a description of the symptoms in order to receive a diagnosis. These technologies also only require cameras, cell phones, and an internet connection, while teleradiodiolgy, telecardiology, and other branches require significantly more investment in equipment. In fact, the entire infrastructural requirements for Telepathology and Telepharmacy could be overcome by a single smartphone connected to a 3g network, which many of us take for granted as something we always have with us.


About acarbone

Finance/Italian/International Development Senior at Tulane University View all posts by acarbone

2 responses to “Expectations in Telemedicine for Developing Countries

  • msingh2

    I agree that telepathology and telepharmacy are two areas of telemedicine that show great potential in rural development. As discussed in class, many problems exist with providing extensive telemedicine services in these areas. In fact, many of the rural areas do not even have the basic infrastructure to support such a grand initiative. Despite this, I think the basic information and counseling for health that these two areas provide can go a long way. Only once these initial stages are in play in these areas can we envision vast telemedicine initiatives for the rural population.

  • kmurphy318

    I think that these are two really promising areas for development in telemedicine as well. However, I too am concerned with the infrastructure available to support these projects. It all too often seems that telemedicine projects are designed and implemented with little thought being given to the lacking infrastructure in the project area. This is amazing to me because it almost makes the project a waste of money, in the least it makes it less effective and affordable. That being said, many telemedicine projects have been experiencing some success, and as more and more people gain access to mobile phones, this success will undoubtedly multiply.

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