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Doctors online for developing countries

Date 16 Jan 2007
Author The Editor

Information technology could hold the key to long-term health improvements in the developing world, according to a student at Northumbria University. Nepalese student Tshering Lama, who has just completed a Masters Degree in Public Health, is about to embark on a PhD to look at the possibilities and limitations of the use of ‘tele-health’' in rural areas of Nepal. Tele-health relates to the use of information technology as a medium to improving health, through methods such as email, the Internet and videoconferencing.

Tshering said: “At the moment there are village health assistants who help with childbirth, immunisations and prescribing medicines but their knowledge is quite limited and they feel very isolated. “Most of the best-equipped hospital and medical experts are concentrated in the urban cities so people living in the rural areas have very little access to professional health care.”

By using IT to connect the health assistants to the outside world, they could receive help on diagnosis of ailments rather than having to transport patients to the cities. It could also be used as a networking and information learning tool to help health assistants build knowledge and keep in touch, easing their isolation and building expertise. Video conferencing could even be used to provide training without the need to travel to the urban cities.

Tshering is hoping to establish a pilot tele-health project in a village in Nepal which would allow him to assess the effectiveness and cost implication of tele-health, and is also looking for a sponsor for his research. Anyone interested is asked to get in touch with him on 07793 208 991.

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