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The Telemedicine Cure for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

January 13, 2010 - 4 Comments

No parent enjoys taking a sick child to see the doctor. And in rural Argentina, ‘seeing the doctor’ can involve a journey of many hundreds of kilometers to get to the prestigious Prof. Dr. Juan P. Garrahan Pediatric Hospital in Buenos Aires. But this is a journey which is often unnecessary.

The reason, I learned when I recently interviewed Dr. Luis Carniglia, who is in charge of Garrahan’s Reference and Counter-reference Program, is that many parents whisk their kids off to the Buenos Aires hospital simply because they do not trust the medics in their local healthcare center.  The Garrahan is one of the top pediatric hospitals in the region—and as a parent myself I know what it is like to want the very best for your children.

But a high proportion of cases the Garrahan’s doctors get to see could easily be treated at a local hospital, says Dr. Carniglia, if only parents could somehow be convinced that the medical attention there is just as good as it is in the capital.  Mindful of this, Dr. Carniglia is heading a project to extend the Garrahan’s 12-year-old remote patient consultation service with Cisco TelePresence and Unified Communications, so Buenos Aires-based doctors can give real-time support to medics doing consultations in regional centers.

In practice, this means parents can now have the reassurance of seeing a Garrahan specialist—over TelePresence or via Unified Communications—alongside their local pediatric doctor.

This reinforces parents’ confidence in regional healthcare staff and removes the need for costly and time-consuming travel.  

My interview with Dr. Carniglia on Garrahan’s telemedicine initiative recently appeared on News@Cisco. (Y para lectores hispano-parlantes, hay también una versión en castellano.)

You can also see the system in action in this video (in Spanish, with English subtitles) featuring Dr. Carniglia, members of the Cisco team working on the telemedicine project, and Telefónica, the service provider involved. 

Regular readers will be aware of how technology is helping to solve an ever-increasing range of challenges in healthcare. To the best of my knowledge, though, this is the first case of IT curing fear, uncertainty and doubt.

And bearing in mind the likely impact of long, drawn-out journeys on a sick child—not to mention the knock-on impact on things like schooling—allaying parental fears in this way can only be a good thing. What do you think?


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  1. To Foråsidetslik: thanks for your comments! Some of your questions might be better answered by the hospital itself but I'll have a bash:1. Cisco Unified Communications is an enterprise-level collaboration tool and so is more secure, has a richer feature set, better quality and higher reliability than, say, Skype. 2. I can't say but, technologically, there would be no reason not to deploy this elsewhere, providing a willing service provider can be found. 3. In theory I guess so although of course much would depend on the availability and condition of networking infrastructure in Haiti or any other disaster zone. 4. My understanding is that the hospital views this as a valuable investment that is funded as part of its remit to provide health services to the community.

  2. But this would be costly too. As it will require high bandwidth speed and local doctors won't be able to afford the high price for internet!

  3. Jason, thank you for writing this fascinating blog entry. It is very interesting how this simple yet complex technology can change the lives of so many. As mentioned in the video, it can provide both direct and indirect help, as a healthy nation is of economic advantage to everyone. I would greatly appreciate if you could answer some questions around this technology: 1) To me, it seems similar to Skype technology between to two hospitals, how is it different? 2) Is Cisco planning on expanding the technology to other countries? 3) Is it possible that in theory one could use it in relation to Haiti? 4) Who will potentially foot the bill: the Argentinean government or Cisco? Thanks.

  4. Most of the visits to a doctor are based on fear of having a major illness, and there is no need of a brilliant doctor to address the issue. Assuming this, this new system comes as a relief for the patients, but still consumes the precious time of the doctors.On the other hand, this system is a great asset for smaller hospitals with less doctors.Cristian.