21 April 2020
Embrace new technology and partner telehealth practices and services for a better health service in the Solomon Islands.
Solomon Islands like the rest of the world was taken by surprise by the advent of the deadly virus we have come to know as Covid-19.
So far the Solomon Islands has successfully kept the virus at bay with effective enforcement measures which will be further advanced in line with the measures already in place in other countries.
Some of those external measures involve the greater use of electronic gateways for financial transactions and monetary dealings.
It has been encouraging in seeing the Government of the Solomon Islands looking to embrace new technology and to be guided by effective practices in external countries designed to keep citizens safe in line with public health.
Last Friday in Honiara the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare spoke about the bilateral relationship between his government and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The PM said he was inspired that in a very short period of six month the bilateral relationship had not only developed but made invaluable progress despite the limitations caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
I very much hope that in keeping with the move towards embracing new technology and the electronic gateways that have been talked about, a continuing of the flourishing relationship with the PRC will focus on the local health care system and relief for an already over-burdened Ministry of Health and Medical Service.
From a slow-start China has now in place an advanced telehealth care system that, given the expansion of broadband and other telecommunications operations in the Solomon Islands, the Chinese healthcare platform could revolutionize the way health care is provided locally.
What is Telemedicine? The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined telemedicine as, “the delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.”
The word “telemedicine” literally translates to ‘healing at a distance’. It often is used as the umbrella term to encompass health care delivery in addition to other activities such as education, research, health surveillance, and public health promotion.
The allure of telemedicine is in its ability to communicate medical data over a distance.
In India, with the advent of modern information and communication technologies (ICTs), telemedicine is now migrating health care delivery from hospitals and clinics into homes, both nationally and globally.
Telehealth differs from telemedicine in that it involves the use of telecommunications and virtual technology to deliver health care outside of traditional health-care facilities. An example would be, virtual home health care, where patients who are chronically ill or the elderly may receive guidance in certain procedures while remaining at home.
In Australia at the present time, Telehealth offers Australians access to essential health services via video or telephone in their home to “support self-isolation and quarantine policies to reduce risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19”.
“Telehealth has many advantages, including keeping patients safe from possible exposure to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, improving access to care, cutting healthcare costs, and contributing toward a greener earth by cutting down on car trips to see doctors in their offices. It also offers its own type of personal and lighthearted or even heartwarming connections.”
Tele-health services are proving to be wonders in the field of healthcare.
Telemedicine initiatives are bringing the world closer and distance is no longer so much of a problem
Lack of awareness and acceptance of new technology both by the public and the professionals are holding it back in some countries, unlike in China and in Australia.
Governments are now starting to take a keen interest in developing telemedicine practices resulting in a slow but steady rise in its utilization in public health.
Hopefully in a few years, telemedicine practices will reach their true potential and, perhaps, with China’s help and maybe Australia, telehealth services could transform health care and provisioning in the Solomon Islands.
Most likely not in my lifetime, but one day I would very much hope.