Last year, I attended the annual Health Information Management Systems Conference in Orlando, Florida (HIMSS17).
This was my second year, and apart from my company being the only Jamaican company represented among hundreds of the best technology companies in the world, I was quite excited when I visited the various booths and saw the very impressive offerings.
One thing that really stood out for me was the linkages that could be made with what we have in Jamaica and the technology available elsewhere to propel the telemedicine industry while increasing the reach of health care to our people.
The Government has been talking about telemedicine for a long time. In fact, years ago the Ministry of Health began work to develop its public-private partnership policy towards eventually developing the telemedicine industry.
I have to make one thing clear here. telemedicine is not only about accessing an app that allows you to make video calls (although options like that on this page can be helpful for that).
The doctor and patient need to know that they have a secure conversation on whichever platform it is. The doctor has to be sure that he/she will be paid before his/her services are given.
The patient has to be able to easily access whatever payment mechanism it is, regardless of income level.
Also, the market needs to evolve in such a way that the insurance companies acknowledge and support claims made through a telemedicine platform with checks and balances to prevent fraud and access to such ‘virtual visits’ to ensure that they form part of the patient’s medical records.
So you see it is not simply being able to call your doctor on an app and get some medical advice.
I mention these things not because they are deterrents. I am simply making the point that being able to do telemedicine right is more complex than some, even those in the medical industry, may think.
I also made, and continue to make, the additional point that we are far advanced here in Jamaica with what is needed to make this a reality at every level.
One thing is for sure, and it is that none of this can really be achieved without technology, which we already have and just need to start using.
Telemedicine is already possible, we have some of the best health professionals in the world, doctors are increasingly using technology to manage their operations, health insurance submission is already electronic and can be customised to other areas, including our most popular markets.
We have the required secure communication applications for use by both doctors and patients and, importantly, we have the required payment mechanism available through mobile money for even low-income persons to be able to access these offerings.
We also need certain diagnostic medical devices and ‘virtual’testing mechanisms to allow for a comprehensive examination by the doctor.
Technology is available now to take your vitals, for example, by simply blowing into a device synced with an app. There is an insulin machine that you can connect to your phone that gives real-time and continuous updates on your condition and much more.
I will explore these further next time, but these are all important ingredients to achieve the kind of telemedicine in Jamaica that will be enviable elsewhere.
I will leave you with something said by the late actor Christopher Reeve. “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”