Danny Lieberman takes a few minutes off from debugging software to consider the Americanization of online healthcare discussions and the central role of modern technology for facilitating doctor-patient relationships.
If you have the time to read online physician blogs and forums (and apparently you took some time off to read the Pathcare blog…), it is impossible to overlook the overwhelming presence of Americans with their daunting baggage of healthcare system issues and endless discussion on how to fix their broken healthcare system.
It feels like Jerusalem in August, where the predominant language in the street becomes American.
Truth be told, America has the best healthcare system in the world with other wealthy Western countries not looking too shabby neither.
Although the term “wealthy Western countries” is beginning to feel like an oxymoron with severe economic crises in the EU and countries like Greece and Spain that are hardly on their feet; there are countries like Rwanda where American concerns and endless debate on electronic medical records and meaningful use seem irrelevant.
Americans have high accessibility to healthcare services with the world’s best doctors, technology, treatments, surgical procedures and medicines – their problem is cost not accessibility.
In Rwanda, the problem is low accessibility to healthcare services not cost.
There is one thing, amazingly, that Americans and Europeans have in common with developing, low-income countries like Rwanda: high levels of mobile phone adoption.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Disaster and Refugee Management (Midimar) last week launched an ambitious campaign of distributing internet-equipped cell phones to all sector leaders with the aim to enhance communication on disasters.
A total of 832 handsets, 32 smart phones and 32 laptops have already been purchased for distribution.
“The cost of the entire project amounts to US$ 164,000,” said Darla Rudakubana, the ministry’s communications specialist.
She added that the program to distribute phones at sector level and smart phones at district level will help ensure fast reporting and response from the authorities. The move comes in the wake of massive floods that devastated three districts including Ruhango and Musanze leaving at least five people dead.
Rapid pentration of smartphones into developing countries like Rwanda is a given, if we take a look at the Chinese mobile market:
Mobile continues to boom in China, with the country now outstripping the U.S. as the world’s biggest smartphone market. Chinese development of cheap Android- based smartphones and tablets for the Chinese market will inevitably result in benefits for low-income countries with 7” Android 4.0 tablets now available for less than $60 and a new Baidu Android-based smartphone that retails for less than $160. As part of mobile provider service package, the Baidu phone will be affordable anywhere.
Mobile apps enable small numbers of doctors to provide quality healthcare to large numbers of patient where the key success factor is not the latest in nuclear medicine cardiac scanning technology but a cheap, simple and immediately accessible digital communications channel for a doctor to talk to patients and rescue workers to cope with diaster operations and management.
Healthcare delivery is cheap – because we eliminate the cost of coming to the office and we make the most of mobile and private networking technology without having to carry the cross of electronic medical records and government mandated data sharing.
When a nurse, or paramedic or specialist has the time to explain things, patients feel respected when they remember the encounter as a positive experience and are more likely to take the nurse/paramedic/physician advice. Sure – it’s best done face-to-face – but when the only option is a phone call or a private message or sharing guidance in a private group for lymphedema patients and caregivers – digital channels are a winner.
The key to reducing physician stress and increasing patient trust , is neither EMR nor data sharing, it is getting back to basics and having good direct communications with patients.
You can use a horse and buggy like American doctors practiced medicine 150 years ago or apps and private social networking for healthcare like Rwandans today but – it’s still about the patient-doctor relationship.by Leave a reply →