Solomon Islands: Telemedicine options with the advent of broadband facilitating high speed internet services.
A positive reading of an article relating to the official opening of the cable station in Auki last week gave news of some of the benefits that are likely to accrue after broadband services facilitate high speed internet. One such benefit referred to telemedicine.
I was immediately interested because I could envisage how telemedicine could be beneficial to the distribution of health related services via electronic information and telecommunication technologies to the far reaches of the Solomon Islands.
Telemedicine is increasingly being used in developing countries, especially in Africa, to provide remote clinical services, such as diagnosis and monitoring in rural, remote settings, where often there is a lack of transport, a lack of mobility, limited funding, or a lack of staff restricting access to health care.
Looking deeper into the subject, I was interested to discover that telemedicine is not entirely new in the Solomon Islands, despite the lack of fast internet services.
The George Institute for Global Health, based in New South Wales, Australia, published details of what appears to have been early trials with telemedicine in the Solomon Islands for a three year period from 2006 to 2009.
The report read, quote:
“During the study period 66 telemedicine cases were submitted to the store and forward telemedicine system being used there. These included orthopaedic, oncology, cardiothoracic, infectious, congenital, gastroenterology and dermatology cases. Most cases (52%) were submitted by doctors at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in Honiara. The majority of responses came from the NRH (27%). A final, firm recommendation regarding patient diagnosis and/or care was given for 46% of the cases. Interviews were conducted with 23 stakeholders in the Solomon Islands and in Australia to better understand the current and future use of telemedicine. The interviews identified the fragility of the Solomon Islands infrastructure, including the lack of training, as the largest barrier to the future use of telemedicine. The best use of telemedicine appears to be case sharing within the Solomon Islands, with connections to clinicians in other countries as a secondary benefit when particular expertise is required.”
It is to be hoped that the fragility of the Solomon Islands infrastructure will rapidly improve with the development plans announced by the incumbent DCGA administration and that with the advent of broadband internet services telemedicine practices will follow for the benefit of many needing better access to health services.
Increased access to portable devices, like laptops and mobile phones should make telehealth more plausible and, to my thinking, health promotion, prevention and health education should become priority concerns of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services.