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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tele-medical care adds value to health sector

BY PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 7 March 2010

FROM a minor leg fracture or osteochondral defect to malignant liver cancer or a rare retinal disease, the diagnosis is depicted in seconds from the world's super-speciality facilities, but without the patient's physical presence.
The latest tele-radiology technology makes patients' medical data available anytime and anywhere in the world. Immediate online access to the patient's radiological images and reports will make the service efficient and reduce delays in results.
A specialist radiologist based in Dubai says that tele-radiology moves the patient's information and not the patient. It has positive impacts on emergency neurosurgical care, by reducing the time to correct diagnosis and treatment of the patient, who needed to be transferred, by avoiding unnecessary transfers.
In the events of medical emergencies or unexpected illnesses happening to a person while traveling by a ship that has moved far away from the land, the patient can seek medical aid of specialists from anywhere in the world through the tele-medicine network, according to Dr Nawab Shafi Ul Mulk, director of Global Hawk Telemedicine Services, Dubai.
"The radiographic image files are electronically transmitted from one location to another through the tele-radiology network. The technological advances in digital imaging, telecommunications, digital storage, and viewing technologies have made it readily available and reasonably affordable," he said.
"The tele-medical treatments can radically improve chronically ill patients, as well as people who suffer from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiac disorders. The technology will provide them with quality life, with access to effective medical expertise round-the-clock from different parts of the world," he added.
Dr Mulk introduced the med-technology in Dubai last year, in tandem with the USA Tele-Radiology Service Providers, networked with a comprehensive team of specialists and researchers worldwide.
According to him, the tele-medical services have been widely accepted in the USA, UK and many Western countries. In the UAE also, the number of patients depending on the medical service has been increasing since its inception.
"Patients in the UAE are provided with consultative radiological services with an advanced medical imaging technology. Tele-radiology is a compulsive modern tool for the physicians to provide accurate diagnosis and treatment, as it can answer many needs within the medical community," he explained.
"Improved quality of care, combined with rapid and accurate diagnosis at comparatively lower expense, is the advantage of the modern medical tool," said Dr Mulk. "It provides direct supervision of off-site imaging studies with reduced time spending for patients, facilitating them maintain improved general health condition."
"The distance between patients and experts is abridged with the provision of consultations of specialists and sub-specialists to the needy across the globe. In contrast to analogue radiographs that can only be monitored in one location at a time, the tele-radiology materialise the mobility of digital images. So different experts based in different locations can view digital images simultaneously in the course of the treatment," he noted.
"As all healthcare providers are not facilitated with multiple full-time radiology systems and resources, the service of qualified sub-specialist radiologists from across the globe could be accessed through the tele-radiology network during regular hours, after-hours and holidays," said Dr Mulk. "The results are transferred with normal or emergency scheduling at any time, providing flexibility options to hospitals and other medical facilities."
He said that the patient radiological images are stored in encrypted temporary storage on the Global Hawk Tele-radiology servers, making them available to the networked international sub-specialist radiologists, who review and provide highest quality speciality reports.
"In the orthopedic trauma application through the tele-radiology, the consulting orthopedist at a remote location reviews the case to improve the diagnostic accuracy, and plans surgical procedures and outlays emergency departments of hospitals," he pointed out.
According to him, the system improves the comfort level of the consulting orthopedic surgeons and limits the risk of litigation for incorrect diagnosis, having the radiographic images available on hand-held devices.
"A tele-medicine box including digitalised stethoscope, microscope, BP and Oxygen metres is used to test blood sugar, blood pressure and O2 levels and the results are provided online with access to specialised treatments," he said.
"The Global Hawk Tele-medicine services has developed the tele-radiology software, and prototype products like digitaliser, video conferencing system and view stations. The solutions will cut down the overall cost of the procedures," added Dr Mulk.

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