Wireless Technologies are Improving Healthcare Access Across the Globe
Wireless healthcare enablement is changing the game for both providers and patients, but there are some distinct differences when you look at what it is doing in First-World and Third-World countries, respectively.
In places like the United States and continental Europe, telemedicine is largely about controlling costs, improving patient quality-of-life and elevating treatment outcomes. Not necessarily in that order.
On the cost side, wireless connections promote more efficient use of in situ equipment—prescribed items such as glucose monitors or sleep masks—as well as ensuring that the equipment gets used as directed. This in turn allows treatment facilities to obtain proper financial reimbursement without having to jump through as many administrative hoops; compliance can be documented and verified in real-time.
Finally, connected equipment has the added advantage of becoming “location aware,” for better inventory control.
On the patient outcome side, telemedicine allows treatment to take place within the patient’s own healing environment. This factor is known to be more efficacious in nearly every treatment scenario imaginable. Other tangible benefits include a reduction in the amount of travel required of patients to and from physicians’ offices. Interestingly, the mere need to “go to the doctor’s” can be a deterrent to treatment because it is time-consuming, inconvenient, and difficult for some patients.
Pushing healthcare access to the Third World
In developing regions, where cellular connectivity has become largely ubiquitous, telemedicine shines as a solution for expanding the reach of healthcare services, bringing skilled medical diagnosis, treatment, and prevention capabilities to remote locations. Examples range from AIDS or hepatitis testing, to patient management and direct physician interactions. These connections can often even provide a bridge across communication barriers such as language and cultural differences.
Medical Tourism – An emerging link between the First- and Third-World
Perhaps the most intriguing opportunity for telemedicine is in supporting the growing trend towards “Medical Tourism.” Many first-world patients are finding success traveling abroad for elective or critical surgical procedures. While counterintuitive, certain pockets of the Third World offer extremely high-quality, low-cost surgical specialties (India is renowned for its heart and lung surgeons for example; Eastern Europe has a reputation for high-end orthopedics). Telemedicine can help make this process more of a managed experience for patients and provide them with a psychological comfort level by connecting with these doctors both pre- and post-procedure. Eventually, telemedicine may allow for data integration directly to the patients’ primary care physicians.
Overall, it is very encouraging that healthcare stakeholders are starting to understand more about telemedicine’s varying roles in improving healthcare delivery and removing stress for patients across the globe.
About the author
Alex Brisbourne is President and COO of KORE Telematics the world’s largest fully digital wireless network provider focused exclusively on the rapidly expanding machine-to-machine (M2M) communications market.
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