Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Telehealth Is The Way To Go

April 16, 2021 · No Comments · Uncategorized



   Technology has come a long way over the past few decades. One area that has seen drastic changes and improvements in technology is healthcare. From the digitalization of patient health records to easier access to healthcare providers and services to cost effective health care, technology has helped to improve the lives of people around the world. As healthcare technology continues to improve, there will be a bigger focus on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and less of a focus on in person face-to-face care. This change will allow people in the remotest parts of the world to have access to providers and other healthcare services that they have never had before.

            One specific area of medicine and technology that is gaining traction is telemedicine. Telemedicine allows one to talk to a doctor live over the phone or through video chat anywhere in the world. Telemedicine also allows one to send and receive messages from providers, allows for people to have access to healthcare regardless of where they are in the world, and provides people with more cost efficient, affordable healthcare. Whether telehealth is used through a smartphone app or set up at a community center, it has the ability to work in any setting around the world.



Telehealth is extremely cost efficient, and in developing countries where much of the population barely subsists, it is a desperately needed solution. A recent study that was conducted found that telehealth in the United States saved individuals anywhere from $19 to $121 dollars per visit. When applied to large groups of people telehealth has the ability to save governments and non-profit organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars when medically treating people in developing countries.

            Access to healthcare is something most people take for granted in developed countries, but according to the WHO and World Bank half of the global population lacks access to essential health services and approximately 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty due to health expenses. Lack of access to healthcare can have a detrimental effect not only on an individual’s health but can extend to families and communities as well. The two regions with the largest gap in available healthcare services are Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Lack of access to healthcare in these two regions of the world puts a lot of people at risk of poor health outcomes and potentially death.

            In order to implement telemedicine in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia, and other remote areas of the world, global health leaders are going to have to draw on many resources. The most important resource that will be needed is funding. Mobile telehealth centers can cost upwards of $30,000, which will need to be provided by either governments or private organizations.  There will need to be trained staff at the telehealth center with proper knowledge of  how to use the equipment and can assist patients. A doctor or other trained healthcare provider must be available to treat patients through the telehealth platform. A translator may also be needed if the doctor or healthcare provider does not speak the language of the people they are treating.

            While implementing telehealth in developing countries, global health leaders are likely to face some challenges along the way. Two of the biggest challenges that will be faced in order to implement telehealth in remote areas of the world are infrastructure and location. Remote locations around the world, often times have no electricity or unreliable electricity; electricity is an absolute must for a telehealth system to operate. It is estimated that the average electric power consumption in Sub-Saharan Africa is around 124 KWh per capita per year which is barely enough power to power a light bulb. When it comes to choosing locations for telehealth services, it can be hard to pick locations that are accessible to rural locations. One solution to this problem is making the telehealth systems portable with their own power supply so that they can be moved around to different regions, guaranteeing everyone access to care.




Another challenge of telehealth medicine in rural settings is the administration of medical care and medicines. If a provider prescribes a treatment or antibiotic for their patient via telehealth, the centers must ensure they are stocked with basic medicines and supplies as well as with trained personnel to administer medications or perform the required treatment. Another challenge of telehealth medicine in rural settings is a lack of healthcare policies and regulations in a lot of developing countries. A lack of policies and regulations can lead to corruption, unqualified healthcare providers working at these telehealth sites, and, at worst the wrong medications prescribed or procedures incorrectly administered.

            While there are some challenges that global health leaders will face when implementing telehealth medicine in rural and remote locations around the world, the benefits outweigh the challenges. Telehealth medicine has the potential to improve people’s health and lives around the world. Healthcare is not privilege but a basic human right. Telehealth medicine would provide that right to all populations of the world.                     

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