In the United States, telemedicine is becoming more prevalent, giving families better access to better hospital services right in their hometowns. This has helped pediatric patients with routine follow-up appointments. For rural patients, these appointments usually mean traveling hundreds of miles, but now they can be done remotely at local clinics.

Worldwide Telemedicine
Telemedicine has also reached worldwide and high-speed internet connections have been helping pregnant women and children in Ethiopia. Though pregnant women have access to ultrasounds, they don’t always have access to expert doctors that can help with pregnancy complications. With telemedicine, women in Ethiopia can receive an ultrasound while communicating with specialist doctors in India and other parts of the world.

Many hospitals in Ethiopia are understaffed and access to specialists can be hard to come by. Through the new telemedicine program, three hospitals in Ethiopia are now able to give their patients access to specialists throughout the world, which is especially useful to pregnant women and pediatric patients.

Virtual Doctors
The doctor appointments are done through wireless robotic machines that feature a moveable base with a mounted screen. These robots are able to move throughout the hospital and can even visit patients in their beds if need be. In remote areas like Ethiopia, getting a few minutes with a doctor in person is rare, so these virtual doctors have been a blessing for many people.

However, some people have expressed some doubts about the effectiveness of the robots. Some people think that money should be used to fund the salaries of in-person doctors. This isn’t always feasible, however, because the salaries are so low for health workers in Ethiopia and the positions don’t draw many specialists. The average annual salary for a health worker in Ethiopia is 2,250 Birr, which is about $117 in U.S. dollars.

The robotic machines cost about $150,000, but they’re also able to give patients access to top quality medical care from world-renowned doctors. In countries where the infant mortality rate is high and pregnancy can be hazardous, women are now able to receive the specialist care they need.

Plans for Expansion
The hospitals in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia have been chosen to test the effectiveness of the robotic doctors. If the telemedicine program continues to be a success, then the program will be implemented throughout Africa. The three hospitals that currently have the program are the Care Hospital, Black Lion, and a provincial Ethiopian hospital in Nekemte. Twenty-three other hospitals in Africa have signed up for the program as well.

Keim, B. (2007, July 17). Telemedicine lets doctors make long-distance house calls.