AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


What Can the Third World Teach Us About Telemedicine?

Telemedicine and mHealth solutions represent the most recent advances in medical history. As futuristic as a patient consulting a doctor from across the world via communications technology may seem, telemedicine is founded in addressing some fundamental challenges that are not unique to the 21st century.

Citizens of developing nations are a glance into the past of the modern world. Limited resources leave these countries facing 3 primary obstacles to proper care that telemedicine is working to overcome:

Lack of doctors: Lower education standards lead to fewer total doctors, leaving some large geographical areas with few or no doctors.

Lack of access: Citizens cannot get to doctors due to their sickness or difficulties with limited transportation options.

Lack of money:  Most citizens simply cannot afford to pay for healthcare.

Compare these points with realities for many Americans:

Lack of doctors: Currently, there are an estimated 954,000 total doctors in the U.S., and that number is projected to constitute a shortage of as many as 150,000 in 15 years. Certain specializations are particularly poorly represented; for example, there is currently roughly one geriatrician for every 2,620 Americans 75 or older, and is only getting worse as senior citizen numbers rise. This ratio could drop to as few as one geriatrician per 3,798 seniors by 2030.

Lack of access: The continental U.S. features many large rural regions, leaving hundreds of millions of citizens at a significant distance from an adequate acute care hospital.  Many people, particularly older citizens, require frequent visits to multiple doctors due to co-morbidity of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. Transporting elderly or infirmed individuals to a physician is becoming increasingly demanding, with rising fuel costs. In addition, specialist doctor visits can often require weeks or months of wait time for schedule availability.

Lack of money: While average income is much higher in the U.S. than in developing nations, rising healthcare costs mean Americans spend a greater percentage of their earnings on healthcare, with healthcare expenditure constituting as much as 15% of GDP. This number is also expected to rise unless dramatic policy changes or significant shifts in healthcare protocol occur.

In reality, the challenges facing healthcare are unchanging. Unlike in the past, modern technology is now paving a path for healthcare providers to tackle the task of overcoming these obstacles. Best of all, as technology moves forward, the same telemedicine solutions that can solve problems in developed countries like the U.S. can eventually be extended to aid citizens of underdeveloped nations. Telemedicine is building a healthier, more connected world.

 


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