Bridging the gap: Health through technology


Alfred Sayah, Master of Provincial Health with the United Nations (UN) World Health Organization (WHO), distributes food to Indonesian children as he conducts a survey about the condition of local inhabitants and relief supplies needed in the village of Gunung Meunasah and surrounding villages on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. (United Nations Brussels)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Afrida khanam, 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.

As mankind has entered an era of easily accessible long distance communication, people worldwide have begun availing this opportunity in almost every field, including medicine. Consultations over phone and the internet have slowly gained popularity in a world too busy to prioritize healthcare over convenience. However, whether such practices are actually effective or not, is a matter of debate.

Communication over distance– from town to town, or even international- has a clear advantage of requiring less time & effort than a meeting in person. Since consulting over phone is often quicker & easier than attending a physician’s office, it has become a useful option in case of minor ailments. Many choose to ask for medical advice over phone before considering going to a hospital for complaints like a mild fever.

It can indeed be helpful in cases of emergency, or in areas where medical assistance is not readily available. Although within a limited scope, it may allow for critical interventions to be taken, and may lessen complications. With remote consultation, individual referral needs may be identified more quickly. The opportunity of receiving advice from distant specialized facilities can help in taking informed decisions regarding the course of treatment.

Regardless of the potential, the practical benefits depend on the usage. For example, in Bangladesh the estimated majority of medical consultations through network provided value added services are due to symptoms of common cold and indigestion. The availability of such services there has helped modulate the workload in hospitals & alleviate unnecessary anxiety of the patients, while encouraging the patients to receive advice from qualified medical personnel and avoid indiscriminate use of medicines. Acknowledgement of this effect was important in the establishment of telemedicine services by the government of Bangladesh.

While there are certain benefits, the risks of remote consultation are not negligible. Attempting to treat symptoms without direct observation runs a high risk of improper or incomplete diagnosis. Without direct contact, not only is proper examination virtually impossible, but the process of history-taking is also likely to be affected due to limitations of long distance communication.

Moreover, the comfort of receiving symptomatic advice may sometimes give the patients a false sense of assurance and temporary relief, which may lead to them delaying a necessary in-person consultation. This delay may cause significant harm in case of time-critical diseases, especially those likely to be misdiagnosed over a distance. For example, a lady with a breast lump, having received a diagnosis of benign disease over phone, may delay further evaluation fearing unnecessary embarrassment, and that delay may prove to be the distance between a pre-malignant disease and cancer.

In conclusion it can be said that, despite having a number of benefits, the graveness of the risks should certainly be kept in mind. Hence it is better to recommend the option of remote medical consultation to be regarded not as a substitute, rather as an adjunct to conventional healthcare, so as to ensure appropriate and effective usage within acceptable standards.

About the author

Ms Afrida khanam is a final year MBBS student at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, Dhaka, Bangladesh.















Featured Stings

Europe, US and Russia haggle over Ukraine’s convulsing body; Russians and Americans press on for an all out civil war

The JADE Spring Meeting is about to begin

Stability in Europe has no chances because of Ukraine

Britain in and out of the EU

Assault on key Yemeni port would endanger 300,000 children and ‘choke off’ aid for millions more: UNICEF chief

GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Europe – 14 June 2016

The EU learns about fishing and banking from tiny Iceland

Yanis Varoufakis in a Sting Exclusive: “Unsustainable debt turns the creditor into Leviathan; Life under it is becoming nasty, brutish and short”

Belgium: Youth Forum takes legal step to ban unpaid internships

Will Brexit shatter the EU or is it still too early to predict?

It’s EU vs. Google for real: the time is now, the case is open

China’s impact as a global investor; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

EU’s new environmental policy on biofuels impacts both the environment and the European citizen

EU’s Finance Ministers draft plan to raise tax bills of online giants like Google and Amazon

EU revengefully shows no mercy to Cameron by demanding a fast and sloppy Brexit now

Here are three technology trends changing the way you travel

FROM THE FIELD: Finding refuge in the ‘beautiful game’

If Macron defies Britain about the banks, Paris and London to clash over ‘La Manche’

A day in the life of a refugee: We should be someone who helps

“C’est la vie”? French recession and unemployment to linger in Eurozone

Draghi indirectly accuses Germany of using double standards in financial issues

Business uncertainty rises as US grants only temporary exception to EU for steel and aluminium tariffs

The European Sting at the Retail Forum for Sustainability live from Barcelona

Regional policies slowed down by EU bureaucracy

Youth unemployment: think out of the box

Why growth is now a one way road for Eurozone

IMF – World Bank meetings: US – Germany clash instituted, anti-globalization prospects visualized

EU unfolds strategy on the Egypt question

Climate change and health: an everyday solution

We have to learn to trust Artificial Intelligence. Here’s how

EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement sees the light as Moscow’s reaction once more looms

Eurozone to enter the winter…

Negative inflation hits Eurozone, ECB to print and distribute one trillion euro earlier than expected

Will Europe be able to deal with the migration crisis alone if Turkey quits the pact?

Trump: Hostile to Europe, voids Tillerson’s “ironclad” ally pledge

Deutsche Bank slammed by the US-based trio of IMF, Fed and Moody’s

The Commission tells Berlin it is legally obliged to help Eurozone out of stagnation

Guinea President Alpha Condé: “We must tackle the root causes of migration”

EU leaders agree on 2030 Climate and Energy Package: is “flexible” brave enough?

Access to healthcare: what do we lack?

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union will impact young people’s future the most

European banking stress tests 2014: A more adverse approach for a shorter banking sector

“We have to do a better job of creating alternatives to violent extremism”, US Secretary of State John Kerry from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

How young entrepreneurs should be supported: what assistance should governments provide?

The EU Parliament endorses tax on financial transactions

The Parliament sets the way for the European Banking Union

This is the state of the world’s health, in numbers

Heat-resistant crops, ‘green’ infrastructure, can prepare Near East and North Africa to better tackle droughts – UN agency

Trump ‘used’ G20 to side with Putin and split climate and trade packs

Migration crisis update: The “Habsburg Empire” comes back to life while EU loses control

A young European voice on Grexit: too high a bill and too big a deal!

EU cracks under the weight of its policy on the Ukraine-Russia nub

Eurozone: Bankers-politicians rig keeps robbing taxpayers

Europe votes against GMOs but the Council votes for TTIP

EU countries invested €5 trillion abroad

Far from a healthy Health Workforce: lack of workforce planning leaves our citizens without access to proper care

The big five EU telecom operators in dire straights

The IMF sees Brexit’s ‘substantial impact’ while the world’s economy holds its breath

Minsk “ceasefire” leaves more doubts than safety, with EU already planning steps further

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s