Regular HealthBlog readers know that I'm a huge proponent of eHealth and tele-health as a means to extend healthcare information and services to citizens around the globe. In my world travels I see plenty of evidence that we are entering a new age in the provision of care; harkened by a need to help control spiraling costs, improve access, and extend a dwindling and aging population of skilled healthcare professionals.
A few weeks ago on HealthBlog, I told you about a tele-health project that Microsoft's Unlimited Potential group has been working on in rural India. Imagine remote villages, dusty roads, and formidable distances that must be traveled in order to reach any kind of clinic or doctor. Such is the case in places like the districts of Barielly and Madhubani in India where 70 percent of the population (some 700 million people ) live in rural areas. People needing medical care must sometimes travel 10 to 12 hours or more to see a doctor, if they can even find one who is willing to care for them. Villagers complain of being preyed upon by charlatans and witch doctors who take their money but don't solve their health concerns.
Working with local partners and medical facilities, Microsoft has been piloting a tele-health project that helps connect people living in such areas with the information and skilled professionals they need. With the assistance of a medical facilitator and by means of a computer and dial up Internet connection, villagers are able to discuss their health concerns with a medical professional at an urban center. Vital signs, photos, medical records and other information can also be shared. Simple problems can often be addressed then and there. People needing more care can be referred for an appointment in town, but with greater assurance that when they make the long trip to get there, they will see the most appropriate specialist for their particular condition.
You can learn more about this exciting project by listening to the latest installment in my House Calls for Healthcare Professionals audio-cast series. Program guests include Karishma Kiri, a director in Microsoft's Unlimited Potential group, and Michael Aldridge, group manager of UP's rural incubations team. The rural incubations team is chartered with the discovery and concept development of new kinds of relevant technology and services for underserved rural communities in the developing world. I hope you enjoy the program.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation