Global telemedicine programs enable physicians to connect with each other using mobile devices and cloud technology, thus sharing their expertise with patients in developing countries where specialized care is often scarce.
In a remote clinic in Nepal, 15,000 patients with limited access to medical care can now access some of the best physicians and specialists in the world. Their local provider in Nepal can enter patient information and photos into a secure portal and receive an opinion or diagnosis from a physician in another country, for treatment options the local provider may not even be aware of.
Telehealth programs that link physicians in disparate locations so they can more accurately diagnose patients, administer care and coordinate treatment are becoming increasingly common. With telehealth, medical professionals can deliver health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies—across town and around the world.
UVA: A pioneer in telehealth
The University of Virginia (UVA) has operated a telehealth program for more than 15 years and continues to be at the forefront of the field. The university is part of a program that connects approximately 500 specialist physicians from leading healthcare centers with doctors and nurses practicing in 65 emerging countries.
In 2007, the university became involved in the Swinfen Charitable Trust, which was created with the aim of helping poor, sick and disabled people in the developing world by establishing telemedicine links between medical practitioners in-country and volunteer expert medical and surgical specialists in the U.S. who provide consultations via the Internet.
The organizations utilize Verizon Terremark's highly secure, medical-grade cloud solutions. This allows physicians to use mobile devices to access electronic health records, x-rays and streaming video, review cases in real time and reduce the time it takes to evaluate cases and perform consultations.
Connecting patients with quality care
Since 2011, the Verizon Foundation has partnered with the Swinfen Charitable Trust and the University of Virginia Health System, helping to bring their telemedicine program to 65 countries.
"Telehealth is a great tool to connect patients and providers and to improve access to care, the quality of care and the timeliness of care," says Dr. Karen Rheuban, a pediatric cardiologist and founding co-director of UVA's telehealth program. Telemedicine can also improve efficiency and reduce costs in healthcare. Many of the doctors volunteering their time would not have had the time or resources to travel to remote locations, but now can be available via computer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Making a difference in communities around the world
Telehealth makes a huge difference for patients and their communities, Rheuban says. In fact, there are a number of communities where the Swinfen connection has made a huge difference for the community at large. With the Verizon Foundation's support, the Trust has expanded its services to provide a community clinic and pediatric plastic surgery program in India and a burn clinic in the Philippines.
UVA and Swinfen plan to expand the telemedicine program to patients in very remote regions via mobile technologies and broadband communication services from companies such as Verizon,. "The goal is to scale up and to provide as much access as possible," Rheuban says.
The future of remote healthcare is almost limitless. Technological advances such as new mobile apps, broadband services and other tools will make even more advanced remote healthcare services possible.
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