Virtual Doctor: a core part of modern healthcare?

Virtual Doctor 2018_

Dr. Juan Manuel Romero, a cardiologist at a hospital in Ciudad Obregon in Sonora, Mexico, engages in a pre-op consultation with Alma Guadalupe Xoletxilva and her doctor, Edgar Cuevas, who are 400 miles away in La Paz, Baja California. Besides enabling doctors who are geographically separated to hear and see each other while consulting, patient information such as charts and scans can be shared in seconds. Intel Free Press story: Virtual Medicine Extends Care Anywhere. Telemedicine carts help deliver care to patients in rural and remote locations across Mexico. (Intel Free Press, 2011)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Sereen Afza Hussain, a final year MBBS student at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College & Hospital, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

“Hello. I’m Baymax, your personal healthcare companion.” It is an introduction of Baymax given by itself which is a healthcare robot in the Oscar wining animation movie Big Hero 6.

Now imagine this robot can scan or assess a person’s health status, connect to a doctor or hospital, and can give primary live saving management on the basis of Doctor’s instruction; this can be a boon to the people of remote area. In this era of modern technology still there are many remote areas especially in underdeveloped or developing countries where healthcare facilities are poor and not easily accessible.

Not only remote areas or villages, healthcare instructions or advices can be needed anywhere and in any case. For urban people, it is sometimes tiresome to wait for a long time in doctor’s chamber or they may need a second opinion besides their current treatment process. A remote doctor to serve patients can definitely use technology now-a-days.

Telemedicine is definitely not a new name. Although there were distant precursors to telemedicine, it is essentially a product of 20th century telecommunication and information technologies; mentioned in Wikipedia. To provide healthcare services from distance by using technology is termed as telemedicine.

Telenursing, telepharmacy, teletrauma care and specialist care such as telecardiology, telepathology, telepsychiatry, teleradiology, teledermatology are some of the services used in it. If a doctor sitting in a specialized hospital in Dhaka, capital city of Bangladesh wants to serve a patient in another city, Rangpur, he can accomplish his job with the help of telemedicine or we can say Virtual Healthcare.

The advancement in telecommunication has lots of more surprises for us. There are tele-gadgets like tele stethoscope, tele ECG, tele ophthalmoscope, tele thermometer etc. but the most incredible thing is that we have real life Baymax, Telepresence. Telepresence robots are used to allow off-site medical professionals. A medical robotics company In Touch Health in California launched robots like RP-VITA (Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant) and The Companion, Robodoc, which was used at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, United States.

Robodoc resembles a big vacuum cleaner with a flat television screen on top and allows the doctor to communicate with a patient via a mounted camera, speaker, screen, and broadband connection. Even our government, the government of Bangladesh had launched 25 Telemedicine centers at different Upazilla Health Complexes under the project Info Sarkar.

There are thousands of examples that will prove that the concept of a remote doctor is becoming popular day by day. Instead of waiting days or weeks for a healthcare professional to travel to a remote area or travelling to a hospital and waiting for an appointment, Virtual Healthcare provides instant services.

For consultations on simple health issues or follow-up on existing conditions, remote consultations can vividly improve the patients’ experience while improving the economics of rural hospitals.

About the author

Sereen Afza Hussain, a final year MBBS student at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College & Hospital, Dhaka, Bangladesh, lives in the same city with her family since birth. Currently she is waiting for the results of her Final exam after passing which she will be a doctor. She completed her schooling from one of the renowned schools in Dhaka, Viqarunnisa Noon School & College and from there passed higher secondary too. She excelled in all her board exams and finally succeeded to be a student of a government medical college. She is an Ambassador of Bangladesh in AMBOSS, a medical learning platform. Her thoughts about studying medicine was featured by AMBOSS_Med (Instagram & Facebook). She likes reading books, listening to music and travelling. Besides, being a medical person she wants to connect with people through her writings.

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