It doesn’t have to be this way.
For patients in remote and underserved communities as well as the healthcare providers that struggle to serve them, there’s new hope on the horizon. We can now bring better care to patients – through virtual collaboration that supports local staff from a distance. Here’s what that looks like.
A digitally integrated maternal care ecosystem allows doctors, midwives, and community healthcare workers to share patient data and consult each other virtually for remote diagnostics
Midwives at rural health clinics in Kenya can now conduct basic ultrasound exams in pregnant women and share data remotely for virtual collaboration (Photos: Amref Health Africa)
The power of this approach is that it can make specialized care more accessible and affordable, while improving consistency in the quality of care and reducing safety risks in times of COVID-19. For patients, getting instant reassurance from an expert – rather than having to wait 1-2 weeks – also saves a lot of stress and anxiety.
In the future, one can even imagine a nurse performing a routine ultrasound exam at home or at a local retail clinic, using the kind of portable handheld device that already exists today, with an expert sonographer looking over the nurse’s shoulder remotely, and with AI extracting basic information from the scan. In the post-COVID-19 era, where patients will have come to expect convenient access to care close to home, this will open up entirely new pathways to diagnosis and treatment.
And it’s not just ultrasound that will become more widely available through remote guidance and education. In other imaging modalities, which face similar shortages of specialized staff, virtualization will also help to distribute expertise more evenly across locations and thereby improve access to care.
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