SEATTLE — Telemedicine is one of the new ways that people are trying to fight poverty and improve everyone’s lives. The remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using telecommunications technology, it may become a crucial way to improve healthcare, eliminate poverty and empower women in developed and developing countries alike.
In many areas, the problem with healthcare is often that it simply doesn’t exist, or if there is any healthcare, it is difficult to access, substandard or poorly staffed. Telemedicine can solve these problems in many areas. Though the technology can be difficult to obtain, creating a telemedicine clinic can solve problems of accessibility, staffing and quality of care. Once the clinic is established, healthcare will be accessible to everyone.
Telemedicine “will dissociate financial status and quality healthcare,” so whatever someone’s financial abilities, they will still be able to get care. The costs of diagnosis and treatment would be greatly reduced since clinics would be able to reduce the amount of wasted time and talent. Instead of paying doctors for full shifts, doctors would be paid for the time using telemedicine, freeing up both the doctor and the clinics.
Many patients sometimes travel for miles to reach mediocre care, but if telemedicine clinics are established close by, people would be able to get opinions not just from local doctors, but from doctors all around the world without needing to travel abroad. Telemedicine would also help reduce unnecessary or emergency visits because people would have better access to care closer to their homes.
This would help save many families the costs of hospital visits, but it also saves the healthcare providers money. All of these benefits would greatly improve the healthcare in an area. Better healthcare generally helps improve the standard of living, and this, in turn, reduces poverty rates and increases the quality of life for the community.
Along with improving healthcare and saving patients time and money, telemedicine provides opportunities to people who would have been shut out of the medical community. Telemedicine especially empowers women who are working in the medical field. In areas like Pakistan, 70 percent of all medical students are female, yet there is a lack of actual female doctors within the field. Known as the Doctor Bride Phenomena, many women who train to be doctors get married and stay at home with the children.
Many families consider having a female doctor for a new family member as a point of pride, but they are often simultaneously not okay with their new daughter working long shifts away from home. Many parents consider that their daughter going to medical school is best for her marriage prospects, not necessarily her future as a medical professional. As a result of this Doctor Bride Phenomena, more than 50 percent of female doctors have dropped out in order to stay at home and care for their children.
Telemedicine is one possible way to address this phenomenon. Many female doctors who choose to stay at home are able to use telemedicine to connect to patients many miles away. This enables many patients to get care even when they are unable to get care from a physically present doctor, but it also allows many women to continue practicing medicine even after they are married and choose not to work in a hospital. They are able to pursue a career when it would have been difficult otherwise.
Though it is a choice to give up being a doctor to raise a family, it is not as straightforward as many think. In areas like Pakistan, it is harder to travel as a woman, and many women face discrimination or other difficulties as a doctor. Telemedicine lets them stay at home with the kids, negating some of these difficulties, while also offering much-needed medical help.
Many female patients also appreciate having a woman doctor to be able to confide in through telemedicine. After her session, one patient said that “you can’t share these things with a male doctor. Only a lady doctor.” Female doctors and patients alike are given a new freedom with telemedicine.
Telemedicine is a wonderful new technology that can help bring proper healthcare to areas that were otherwise substandard. The largest drawback of telemedicine is the technology aspect; the necessary equipment can be expensive, and some areas just don’t have the financial ability to create a clinic, regardless of their need for better healthcare.
Telemedicine also relies on readily available internet access to work. These drawbacks make it ineffective in many areas of the world that need better healthcare, but for many other areas, telemedicine could be the perfect solution to help communities get better healthcare.
– Rachael Lind