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African Telemedicine Conferences
Jamais Cascio, 1 Feb 06

Telemedicine is a worldchanging practice for regions that, for reasons of geography, economics or politics, are poorly-served by local healthcare. Advances in communication technologies make telemedicine more accessible, and we've covered a variety of applications for remote medical diagnosis. Global institutions are paying more attention to the potential for telemedicine lately, and two conferences -- one just concluded, one still coming up -- demonstrate the breadth of interest.

The European Commission's Directorate General for Development, in coordination with the African Union and the European Space Agency, just concluded a workshop on telemedicine in Brussels. The focus was on the use of satellites for telemedical applications, and the conference initiated a study -- to be completed by June of this year -- on what would be required to set up a pan-African telmedicine satellite network. Satellite communication systems have dropped in cost in recent years, and allow rural health clinics to take advantage of international medical diagnostic services.

At the other end of the institutional power spectrum, the Africa Telehealth Project seeks to build community healthcare programs in Africa through the use of telemedicine applications. In late May, the Africa Telehealth Group will host a conference on Telemedical Health Care in the city of San Angelo, Texas. The goal of the conference is to review recent developments in the field of telemedicine, and to work out ways to strengthen the relationship between US and European information technology and healthcare organizations with the nascent telehealth movement in Africa. Registration is now open.

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Good stuff. I was involved with a telemedicine project in recent years, on the technology side. Telemedicine isn't just about illness/injury diagnosis, but it can also have important psychological benefits, particularly for people who feel isolated with their health issues. Isolated people in rural areas can be more prone to mental illness. Even just routine checks can help them to feel safer/part of a community. For such purposes, even low quality teleconferencing is useful. For specific injuries, detailed still photos can be useful, not just for diagnosis but also to prepare urgent medical assistance.

Posted by: Flannel Flower on 3 Feb 06



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