I recently read an article in the New York Times about the prospects of telemedicine in the US…the future looks great now that reimbursement is picking up. Clearly the motivation behind using technology here is to see more patients and earn more money.
The driving force behind telemedicine in developing countries will be different. Not that money isn’t important because there’s no place on earth that can’t benefit from more money. The use of technology and telemedicine in resource poor setting could save the lives of pregnant women without access to adequate care, provide professional support to geographically isolated health care professionals and nurture academic environments by generating dialogue among professionals in who would otherwise not have an opportunity to discuss interesting cases.
It’s much easier to advocate for investing in a telemedicine program when you can demonstrate a robust financial return on investment. It’s much more challenging to inspire investment in educational or professional support.
Those of us interested in eHealth or telemedicine, particularly in it’s application in developing countries, need to think about how to either monetize the benefits, or find objective measures to prove their worth.