One of the biggest healthcare issues of many countries today is that the poor level of medical services in rural and remote regions. Rural areas generally have worse medical services compared to urban areas and large cities. This is a big problem especially since the demand for professional medical services and medical aid in rural areas is increasing, while medical services have not been able to keep up.
One trend is that skilled doctors from rural hospitals and clinics are transferring to more developed urban hospitals in order to be closer to their professional peers and medical experts. The use of common communications technologies for improving medical services has become more common, but this is mostly restricted to large urban areas, resulting to a widening gap between urban and rural healthcare.
Using Telemedicine to lower the healthcare gap between urban and rural areas
Telemedicine is the provision of medical aid from a distance using data communications, and it is one of the optimal ways to serve remote and rural areas with professional healthcare services. It is most beneficial for populations living in isolated communities and remote regions and is currently being applied in virtually all medical domains. An efficient way of implementing telemedicine is the construction of rural telemedicine centers that are equipped with all required the IT applications and communications devices for remote consultation, diagnosis, treatment, transfer of medical data, and sometimes remote medical procedures or examinations. Telemedicine centers allow doctors and medical experts to provide professional medical services to rural areas, allowing them to spend more time giving medical aid without long hours wasted traveling.
Application of VSAT to Telemedicine and Healthcare
Satellite technology on VSAT platforms provides the most effective solution for telemedicine centers due to its unmatched coverage and service availability. VSAT provides the required connectivity between the users of medical applications, databases, video, and phones at remote locations, and allows communication with remote and mobile sites. VSAT provides the crucial communication between remote clinics and doctors engaged in on-site medical support, and the medical experts in various urban hospitals. Diagnostic data, images, and live videos can be transmitted between two locations or to a multi-location conference session, regardless of remoteness of the locations. VSAT also provides the bandwidth to access logistical information and information regarding hospital and medical resources.
How Telemedicine can advance rural healthcare in Africa
More than 50 percent of the population in African countries lives in rural locations, while most physicians in Africa only practice in bigger cities that have good infrastructure and a concentrated patient base. This leaves a massive gap in medical care, especially since the average doctor to patient ratio in Africa is one doctor to about one million inhabitants. This extreme shortage of health professionals in the entire region results to a very great burden of disease for patients.
Telemedicine can help this dire medical situation in Africa by providing rural villages with access to medical specialists, thus improving the quality of care in rural areas, and reducing the need for rural patients to travel far distances to seek medical attention. In the past, international medical services in Africa have tended to support urban areas, and telemedicine will help alleviate the shortage of doctors in rural areas and will help improve the medical situation of rural patients.
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