Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tele-boost to healthcare

2 Feb 2011, The Gulf Today

THE rapid growth in the information technology sphere and communication bandwidth has boosted an equally rapid development of clinical teleradiology in the UAE, according to a Dubai-based radiology expert.
Speaking to The Gulf Today, on the sidelines of the recently concluded Arab Health 2011, Dr Nawab Shafi ul Mulk, director of Global Hawk Telemedicine Services said that teleradiology exploits the latest of technological advancements by bringing radio diagnosis at the patients’ doorsteps.
Teleradiology is the future generation approach to medical information, allowing for transmission of patient radiological images (such as x-rays, CT scans, MRIs). It enables people to get second opinions from specialists in different countries and allows for improved patient outcomes.
The telemedical treatments can radically improve the condition of chronically ill patients, as well as of those who suffer from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiac disorders, explained Dr Mulk. The technology will provide them with quality of life and access to medical expertise round-the-clock from different parts of the world.
“The latest teleradiology 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,” he added.
Dr Mulk introduced teleradiology in the UAE for the first time a couple of years ago, through the channel of the USA Teleradiology Service Providers, networked with a comprehensive team of specialists and researchers worldwide.
The introduction of teleradiology advancements in the UAE’s healthcare sector facilitates early detection and treatment of diseases on a large scale, as clinics and hospitals can efficiently monitor the real-time status of examinations and results.
He said, “Patients in the UAE are provided with consultative radiological services with advanced medical imaging technology. Teleradiology is a compulsive modern tool for physicians to provide accurate diagnosis and treatment, as it can answer many needs within the medical community.”
“Improved quality of care, combined with rapid and accurate diagnosis at comparatively lower expense, is the advantage of the modern medical tool. It provides direct supervision of off-site imaging studies with reduced time spending for patients, facilitating them in maintaining improved their general health.”
“The telemedical 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,” he added.
“The global healthcare sphere faces a serious shortage of radiologists, as the imaging procedures are growing approximately by 15 per cent annually, against an increase of only two per cent in the population of radiologists. Teleradiology effectively contributes to resolve the healthcare industry’s crisis due to scarcity of experts,” Dr Mulk revealed.
He explained that as one of the benefits of the modern tool, teleradiology moves the patient’s information and not the patient. It has positive impacts on emergency neurosurgical care, by reducing the time for diagnosis and treatment of the patient, who needed to be transferred, by avoiding unnecessary transfers.
“In the event of medical emergencies or unexpected illnesses for people who are traveling by ship or have been moved far away from the land, the patient can seek medical aid of specialists from anywhere in the world through the telemedicine network,” he noted.
“The radiographic image files are electronically transmitted from one location to another through the teleradiology network. The technological advances in digital imaging, telecommunications, digital storage, and viewing technologies have made it readily available and reasonably affordable,” he said.
“Being able to review and interpret case studies without physical presence, teleradiology could increase efficiency of the procedures, simultaneously decreasing the chances of delay for completion of study. The report is archived in a comprehensive electronic medical record system,” Dr Mulk added.
According to him, wireless transmission portable viewers potentially improve the application of the procedures and accessibility to the teleradiology technology.
He said that the patients’ 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 specialty reports.
“In the orthopedic trauma application through the teleradiology, 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.
Dr Mulk is currently working on the launch of a mega project for a dozen super specialty centres, named as Global Hawk Imaging and Diagnostic Centres (GHIDC) across the region and other parts of the world.
“Eight centres will be opened in the next two years in the UAE, the KSA, Oman and Qatar. One centre will be set up in Malaysia and the other two are planned to establish in India’s Bangalore and Jaipur. The first imaging and diagnostic centre among the series will be operational soon in Jumeirah,” he said.