Telemedicine Gets a Boost From Novartis and the Earth Institute

mother waiting for USN medics in Africa

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the Millennium Development Goals and, of course, how we need to push harder to reach them. Technology is an area that is cause-agnostic–from health to education to human rights, technology can be an end in itself, but more often it’s a tool to reach a desired end. In that vein, Novartis’ Foundation for Sustainable Development has announced that it is partnering with Columbia University’s Earth Institute to boost telemedicine in the rural village of Bonsaaso, Ghana, as part of the Ghana Telemedicine Project.

With Novartis’ $630,000 pledge, plans are being made to improve mobile health programs, including ChildCount+, a text-message-based service that registers patient health information from a cell phone onto a database. A tele-consultation center will also be set up, as will an electronic records system in each Millennium Village in Africa (total of 14 on the continent), thus allowing health workers to share and compare patient information across vast distances.

Indeed, for many in rural parts of developing countries, the improvements that such technologies will make are the best they will ever see in their lifetimes. “This is likely the only way to significantly upgrade the quality of care in these communities” Healthpoint Services Chairmand and telemedicine expert, Al Hammond, tells Fast Company. “The Novartis/Earth Institute initiative is another example of the growing use of telemedicine to address the acute lack of doctors and other medical professionals in rural areas of developing countries.”