Telemedicine from the Valley provides expert help to rural areas

If you talk about health issues with friends and family, it’s all about finding the right specialist. Many of them have tried up to five different doctors and still don’t feel like they’ve found someone they can fully trust. The knee might still hurt sometimes, the blood glucose is still not at its optimum level and these troublesome ear infections seem to come back every time the temperature drops below 10 degrees.

If this reminds you of your last dinner with friends, you probably realized that the carefree times of your youth are over. But what you rather don’t realize is that you are quite a lucky person – because you live in an area with a well developed social infrastructure. If you called a more rural area your home, you wouldn’t worry about finding the right specialist. You would worry about finding any specialist at all.

Especially poor countries often lack trained experts in health. In many parts of Africa, patients must drive for hours to find a specialist for their medical condition. Moreover, due to a general lack in medical education, they are likely to find no one at all. Then general doctors must do their best to find the right treatment for their patient. And that’s certainly a bad compromise for both of them.

But hopes are high that brand new developments in technolgy might provide an easy and cost-saving solution. While patients can’t travel to experts far away, these experts can come to their patients’ homes instead. Not physically, of course – but virtually.

Videoconferencing provides expert advice from far away. The requirements are usually quite low: A webcam and a computer. All you then have to do is to explain your medical condition.

However, this technique still lacks an important part of any diagnosis: the medical examination. That is why innovators in healthcare now look for compact, smart and low-cost examination devices for local general doctors. These innovators believe that expert treatment will be possible anywhere in future. And I was so lucky to meet one of them at a conference in Libreville (Gabon): Milton Chen from VSee, who brought this theory into praxis.

VSee tested its Telemedicine Field Kit in small villages along the along the Ogowe River. It includes all kinds of medical devices and allows to send the examination results to a specialist right away. The expert then can decide if further examinations and invasive treatment are necessary. If so, the patient can head to the next hospital. If not, he can stay home and thereby avoid a long and strenuous journey.

With an ageing population it is obvious that teleconferencing solutions like the one of VSee are urgently needed – not only in developing countries, but worldwide indeed. The impact, however, will be greatest in areas of the poor. By little means, we can now make a change there.

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