ClickCare Café

Is Telemedicine The Key to Global Health Equity?

Posted by Lawrence Kerr on Wed, May 21, 2014 @ 10:38 AM

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This post comes to you from Baltimore, MD, where we are participating in the American Telemedicine Association's annual meeting of policy-makers and innovators from the telemedicine community.

We've been playing a part in the ATA meetings since 1995, when we were just beginning to pilot iClickCare in underserved school-based health settings. One reason we've always found this conference fascinating and helpful is because of its "social impact" orientation. For us and for the ATA...

Telemedicine is not about making money on a new technology (although the ROI effects are impressive). It is about making positive change for patients and for providers.

This year, that mission orientation was especially salient, with the selection of anthropologist, physician, and humanitarian Paul Farmer of Partners in Health to give the keynote speech yesterday. We loved Dr. Farmer's talk and have deep respect for his practical, bold work. In particular, a couple of comments stood out to us:

  • Because there is a lot of variation in health outcomes within a particular country, it's less helpful to speak of "international health" than it is to consider "global health equity." 
  • Technology is an exciting opportunity because it helps medical providers reach others, in rural or urban places, that don't have health equity. For instance, the national nursing hospital that Dr. Farmer and his associates re-built is based on the idea that specialists can be "brought in" through telemedicine.
  • One key principle in his work in Boston, in Haiti, and in Rwanda is treating some conditions in hospital settings, but often treating chronic disease at home.
  • A disease may not incurable. But without a delivery system, many people become "too poor to treat."

Many of our iClickCare users are based in the United States and don't tend to see themselves as in a development context, or as part of a global health equity movement, as Paul Farmer does. However, we have seen countless examples of how iClickCare has been used for social impact, international health, and advancing global health equity. For example:

  • Connecting surgeons in Kenya with colleagues in the United States to contribute experience around orthopedic issues. 
  • Providing remote followup care (from the US to Iraq) to an Iraqi boy who received pro bono reconstructive facial surgery in the US.
  • Giving school-based nurse practitioners in an under-resourced school a quick and efficient link to pediatricians who can "round out" school-based care.
  • Linking medical residents in the Dominican Republic and medical residents in Rhode Island to each other, to share diagnoses and treatment ideas on unusual diseases.
  • Connecting wound care nurses in NYC to specialists just 5 miles away -- but 90 minutes in city traffic.

Even by experimenting with telemedicine and medical collaboration, you are part of the global health equity movement -- all it takes is action, small or large.

If you're curious about other applications of telemedicine, we put together a free overview of options, here:

ClickCare Quick Guide to Telemedicine


Tags: international health, medical collaboration, telemedicine roi, good medicine, telemedicine solutions

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