By ICTpost eGovernance Bureau
As health care moves into the digital age, high-speed access to the Internet will become increasingly important for both health care providers and patients. The broadband effort goes hand-in-hand with the Indian Government’s push for health reform and expanded use of health IT.
It’s always the last mile that’s the most expensive when you talk about broadband — especially high-density broadband, the fiber optics that build the information superhighway.
The broadband field is experiencing great development every day and as a result is becoming more competitive. The problem is, while that sounds like a great idea, rural areas are often neglected as far as getting good broadband internet access is concerned. There are several developed areas that can enjoy up increasing download speed of broadband internet, whereas, there are rural areas that can hardly get up to 1mbps in download speed.
Health Care and the Power of Broadband
Digital records available over high speed networks can reduce waste, improve patient outcomes, and cut costs. Telemedicine applications that enable real-time clinical care involving geographically distant patients and providers can deliver the highest quality care to even the most remote communities. Remote monitoring made possible by broadband can facilitate post-operative care and chronic disease management without hospitalization or institutionalization.
As India moves deeper into the 21st century, it has become increasingly evident that improving the healthcare system has climbed near the top of the nation’s agenda. The key challenges have been evident for some time – providing access to care for every Indian, assuring a high quality of care across the system, reducing medical errors, and finding the resources to pay for it. Consensus on a solution has been harder to come by.
The emergence of the Internet and the expansion of broadband service have opened vast new areas of opportunity for better health care and improved cost management. Even as the nation struggles toward comprehensive reform of its health care system, broadband communication holds the power to improve the quality of care, cut costs and reduce the medical service gap among rural communities.
Systemic reforms have proven elusive to date, and a comprehensive national overhaul of the health care system may take years more to achieve. But information technology tools, including broadband, are already improving care, expanding access and cutting costs in a variety of locations across India. We know how to use Telemedicine and advanced information technologies to help close the economic and geographical gaps in coverage that routinely separate many rural and inner city poor patients from needed medical services. Today there are literally thousands of successful examples of new communications and IT services being pressed into service for patient care, administration and management, improved service delivery, medical research, and teaching.
Here’s some of what broadband can help us do:
• Enhance quality and decision making by connecting patients and practitioners to information sources about best practices, health care innovation, quality care measures, and data on the effectiveness of medical institutions and practitioners.
• Reduce costs and create efficiency in health care management by streamlining recordkeeping and administration
• Empower patients by improving access to information and enabling them to control their personal health record
• Close the medical care gap between urban and rural America and expand access to care through the use of telemedicine for a range of clinical care programs
• Improve the quality of care for all Indians by linking patients and practitioners to the top specialists in every branch of medicine through real-time Internet consultations
• Reduce medical care costs and improve life quality through remote monitoring that brings more care directly into the home
• Overcome healthcare provider shortages through Internet-based care that connects distant practitioners to communities where local medical resources are in short supply
• Enhance disaster preparedness and recovery with seamless communication that can help medical care givers respond quickly to areas of greatest need.
Broadband facilitates efficiency in healthcare delivery and creates opportunities for doctors and healthcare specialists to work together as a virtual team – with specialists located in any part of the world. A family practitioner in a small rural town can send medical images of a patient, to a specialist in any part of the world for an instant expert consultation. Test results from a hospital emergency room or laboratory can be sent to radiologist or doctor in seconds, making rapid diagnosis a reality.
Doctors are also now sending prescriptions directly from their offices to pharmacies, greatly reducing errors, with automatic checking for interactions.