June 7, 2009

Afghan Telecom Expands Telemedicine Solutions

While preparing to serve as a panelist for a conference, "Role of the Private Sector in Stabilization: Providing Sustainable Employment in Afghanistan," sponsored by the Afghan American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) and in cooperation with the Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Washington, D.C. on June 10, 2009, I learned that Roshan, a leading telecom operator in Afghanistan, expanded "its first-of-its-kind Telemedicine solution in Afghanistan beyond Kabul to include provincial hospitals. Bamyan Provincial Hospital will be the first provincial medical facility linked to the innovative Telemedicine project, which uses broadband technology, wireless video conferencing and digital image transfer, to provide hospitals in Afghanistan with real-time access to specialist healthcare diagnosis, treatment and training expertise from abroad." Roshan's partners include Cisco Systems, the Government of Afghanistan, The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi (AKUH), French Medical Institute for Children (FMIC), Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), Bamyan Provincial Hospital (BPH) and other technology suppliers.

Launched in 2007, "more than 340 patients have benefited from Telemedicine and more than 231 Afghan medical personnel have participated in diagnostic and training opportunities facilitated by the technology." Roshan's vision is to extend Telemedicine links to other provincial hospitals and medical institutions in Europe and North America and the company will invest US$1.5 million over the next three to five years in the Telemedicine project that began through the company's Corporate Social Responsibility department. "The Telemedicine project developed in Afghanistan is also seen as a model for addressing healthcare delivery shortcomings in other developing countries where access to medical diagnosis, treatment and training is limited."

Roshan further explains, "Telemedicine involves the use of broadband technology that provides real-time high speed access for the transfer of medical imaging, video, data and voice. Applications include the ability to send real-time X-ray, ultrasound and CAT Scans (Computerized Axial Tomography) for evaluation. The technology also enables e-learning and learning through video conferencing. The initial service provided is teleradiology, the electronic transmission of radiological patient images. There are currently an average of 40 teleradiology cases evaluated monthly between FMIC and AKUH and ongoing training provided to medical professionals to build capacity. Telemedicine capabilities will gradually be expanded to other rural regions of Afghanistan, to include the use of smart-phone and PDAs, and to address different services and procedures including evaluation of tissue samples and the on-line performance of medical and surgical procedures."

Telemedicine creates an opportunity to increase capacity of services to a large population who require medical treatment or wellness education. Moreover, telemedicine offers an opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs to develop programs and support services required to implement an essential service in improving the quality of life for vulnerable populations. Click here to watch an interesting video on Global Health TV about new technologies solving global health problems.

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