Extending care globally through commodity telehealth services


Next month I travel to Luxembourg to deliver a keynote address at the annual Med-e-Tel conference.  The conference focuses on ehealth and telemedicine applications as well as a wide range of other medical ICT applications.  It also examines the convergence of information and communication technology with medical applications, which lead to higher quality of care, cost reductions, workflow efficiency, and widespread availability of healthcare services.

My keynote will examine how commodity unified communication technologies can be applied to extend the availability of health information and medical services to citizens in developed, developing, and emerging nations.  Less than 25 percent of the world's population has adequate access to healthcare services.  One could argue that the growing cost of care, aging population and a shortage of qualified medical professionals will lead to significant challenges for providing care even in developed, industrialized nations unless we get smarter and much more efficient in how we provision care.  I believe Internet-enabled, commodity telemedicine and telehealth services will play an increasingly important role in extending needed care around the world.

In the developed world, the growing availability of broadband Internet, Wi-Fi, G3 and G4 cellular networks, and the move to digital television in the home are opening doors to an amazing array of telemedicine and telehealth services.  In fact, one could argue that it is no longer the technology so much as regulatory and reimbursement issues that are holding us back in making telehealth services more widely available in America and other industrialized nations. 

image But even in far less developed economies where broadband is scarce and electricity and phone service may be unreliable, commodity communications technologies are being used to extend healthcare services to those in need.  In my keynote, I'll share a case study and video from a pilot project in the districts of Barielly and Madhubani in rural India where 70 percent of the population (some 700 million people ) live in rural areas.  In contrast to the per capita healthcare spend of more than $7000 a year in America, India spends just $7. And India has only about 60 doctors for every 100,000 people vs. more than 200 per 100,000 in many developed countries.

Microsoft, Drishtee, and other partners have been involved in pilots that areimage aimed at providing a technology platform for rural communities that gives citizens greater access to qualified health information and medical services.  The platform uses simple dial-up Internet access, computers and web cams to connect care-givers and patients in remote villages with more highly qualified medical professionals in urban centers.  We are also working on software and scenarios that utilize Smartphones and wireless cellular networks to extend telemed services. More information about our India telemed project will be featured on my next House Calls for Healthcare Professionals audio-cast which will be available for streaming or download later this month. 

As the reach of the Internet grows, and the number of ways to extend low cost, two-way audio and video into the home (or village) increases, commodity telemedicine solutions and an entire range of ehealth services will emerge to help meet the demand for health information and medical care around the world.

Bill Crounse, MD   Senior Director, Worldwide Health   Microsoft Corporation

Comments (3)
  1. HealthBlog says:

    Regular HealthBlog readers know that I’m a huge proponent of eHealth and tele-health as a means to extend

  2. sully says:

    India can definitely benefit from telehealth when there are so few doctors.

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