Telemedicine has made a lot of news for the wrong reasons. Partly because there has been a little understanding about the same.
I remember that in the earliest articles I had laid a case for nationwide roll out of Telemedicine. However, it has become increasingly clear to me that beyond its novelty value, there isnt much to recommend it.
At the most, people might use it for “second opinion”; this itself is dicey. In their own enthusiasm, people might be willing to ignore their own best interests. I remember a particular case who had cancer of the food pipe. Of course, the poor lady had no hope for survival; yet surgery would have given her syptomatic relief. There was of course, a difference of opinion between two consultants. It is an isolated case, but there might be many ways to approach a problem.
I am not suggesting that one ought to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I have already mentioned, the utility and a viable business model of Teleradiology. What else can it do?
It maybe possible in say screening for diseases in the periphery or for reporting the extent of the diseases. Very often, the reporting is delayed and relies on the good old postal system. It maybe possible in the future to alert the authorites to take corrective action in case there is any isolated outbreak of a disease.
It can also be used for training of the health workers in the periphery. The same equipment can be used for streaming videos or perhaps as a part of the literacy campaign- the digital projector and the computer in one unit. Of course, it would work in Linux!
How often I have wished that there were adequate facilities in the periphery. One may argue that this is possible via television- which has arguably more reach than telecom companies can hope to reach. However, these are value added services. It is possible to generate localised content and offer it as means of health education in people’s own language. Prevention is better than cure anyday. With increasing health care costs, it makes sense to educate people about the means of prevention; rather than treat them for complications.
As I mentioned about the teleradiology model, I believe that it maybe useful to access the services for radiology in the peripheral areas; digitised XRays are available. Offline loading on to a computer and hooking it up to the central database. This would facilitate diagnosis of the people suffering from various ailments. Of course, they would prove themselves to be great teaching slides.
There are various ways and means in case we wish to utilise the existing infrastructure to solve our present problems. It needs clear articulate thinking and application of mind. Not go gaga over it.
Comments are invited.