Cal Berkeley has partnered with a health network in India for an innovative program to bring doctors’ expertise to remote locations, with wifi. The program has been so successful, it’s expanding:
“What we’ve done here is develop a simple, inexpensive software and hardware system that can provide villages with a high-bandwidth connection to computer networks in cities as far as 50 miles away.”
With high-speed links to the hospital, three of the clinics, also known as vision centers, screen about 1,500 patients each month. Centers are run by a nurse trained in eye care. Patients first see the nurse, then spend about five minutes on a web camera consulting with an Aravind doctor. If the doctor determines that a closer examination or an operation is necessary, the patient is given a hospital appointment.
Typically patients receive glasses, medicine or remote diagnoses for more serious problems that often require a hospital appointment or surgery. About 5-10 percent of patients – already about 100 people a month – experience significant vision improvement as a result of treatment, usually by cataract surgery.
Telemedicine has been around since the ’60s, but with the web and wifi, costs are dropping enough to make it practical in the areas that need it most.