The US State Department has formed a telemedicine public-private partnership in Pakistan, demonstrating the transformative power of high speed connectivity in improving social services in remote areas.
Telemedicine enables healthcare providers to deliver high quality medical services for patients in remote locations – services that would otherwise be lacking or absent. The public-private partnership is using telemedicine to help broaden and strengthen technical capabilities supporting the “hub,” Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, with the “spoke” in District Attock.
According to a news release, other partners include IBM, Wateen Telecom, Motorola, Medweb, USAID, the US Department of Defence Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Center, Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, District Headquarters Hospital in Attock, and the Government of Pakistan. In addition, the engagement of US Embassy in Pakistan and Pakistan Embassy in USA, particularly its Economic Section, has been critical to the project’s success.
"The goal of this project is to highlight technology’s ability to overcome a significant healthcare imbalance more than 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas but only 22 percent of the doctors work there,” says internationally recognized telemedicine expert and surgeon, Dr. Asif Zafar.
In addition to assembling this public-private partnership, the US Government contributed $220,000 to purchase state-of-the-art telemedicine equipment and services to operate the project. The equipment combines an Internet-access portal including interactive collaboration tools such as secure email, voice and video conferencing on a secure telemedicine network with advanced medical peripheral devices such as portable ultrasound, digital cameras, stethoscope and X-Ray machines.
The Pakistan telemedicine project has already provided expanded medical care to hundreds of patients; pre-operative planning and follow-up; cardiac assessment; opthamology, dermatology, radiology, infectious disease, and peri-natal evaluations; and medical triage for traumas and acute illness.
The Pakistan Telemedicine Project extends the United States-Pakistan Strategic Partnership, which was formed in 2006. The broad, long-term partnership of the US and Pakistani Governments reinforces the possibility of collaborative projects like this one, which has had the opportunity to transform and improve the lives of many Pakistanis.