Most Belizeans know they can see the speaker on a phone call through the ‘Facetime’ app on an iPhone, but the technology also has life-saving applications, such as the telemedicine initiative launched by the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City on Tuesday, September 3.
KHMH has acquired state-of-the-art camera equipment, the Polycom V6X 7000, to provide this video-conferencing capability, which allows Belizean doctors to access the expertise of world-renowned specialists at top medical institutes abroad to assist in diagnosis, treatment and even surgery, in real time.
This new service is called “telemedicine”. The Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute and the International Medical Outreach program of the Carolinas Healthcare System are among the first to agree to help KHMH doctors with this service.
Nesean Castillo of KHMH’s Information Technology Department, explained the Polycom camera’s advantage over ‘Facetime’ and Skype is that the camera is of much higher resolution and with a better lens system that is able to focus precisely on the patient and the area of the body being treated or operated upon.
Those features would enable a foreign specialist looking at a television screen image over the internet to see the patient in sufficient detail to make an informed diagnosis, and communicate via a microphone with doctors in Belize. The Highman Foundation has kindly donated the equipment and technical support to help KHMH provide the service.
Belize Telemedia is also assisting the KHMH through a dedicated four megabyte per second Internet connection free of cost; and Telemedia’s Customer Services Manager Dionne Miranda said the company welcomed the opportunity to assist the KHMH.
KHMH Medical Chief of Staff, Dr. Adrian Coye, welcomed the new service, which makes specialist medical care much more affordable and available to Belizeans in country, saving on both travel and accommodation expenses abroad.
In the past Belizeans in need of specialist medical care not available in Belize have had to resort to all sorts of fund-raising efforts and the good-will and charity of their fellow Belizeans to be able to travel abroad for treatment, and those who could not afford to travel became a personal tragedy.
Coye credited Dr. Bulwer with first suggesting the whole concept of transmitting images as a way to improve the delivery of health care, and Coye saw the potential and ran with the idea.
Coye admitted that the vast amount of medical knowledge available to doctors today may not all be stored in his brain. He therefore welcomed the chance to collaborate with colleagues who may have experience with a thorny problem and even a solution, so that patients in Belize gets the best care.
Coye added they have already pioneered consulting with foreign colleagues using images captured and transmitted via his iPad over the Internet to the “Cloud” to be assessed by foreign colleagues.
He said the potential is really limitless, and down the road the hospital medical staff may also be able to get medical training in the hospital, consulting with foreign specialists without having to travel abroad.
Coye said this sort of training would be available not just to doctors, but also to nurses, the health care assistants, the physiotherapists, the respiratory therapist, the cardio- respiratory emergency nurses, the nurse anaesthetist, etc. Such training would be possible for a fraction of the cost of sending staff abroad for training.