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.