Thoughts and opinion from the wards
Technologies for global health
Medical technology has developed rapidly in recent in recent decades and there is now real potential to apply these technological developments to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare worldwide. In a report published in the The Lancet, Peter Howitt and colleagues from Imperial College London examine how medical technology could best be used to improve health in low- and middle-income countries. The report concludes that in many cases, medical technology—almost exclusively developed and evaluated in richer countries—is not appropriate for use in developing nations. Although medical technology is making a substantial contribution to global health, there is much more that it could do if developed and applied appropriately for low and middle income countries.
One area where technology could have a major impact on health care through the use of mobile phones, which are increasingly being used to deliver care in developing countries. Mobile phone use is common, and does not rely on infrastructure such needed for postal systems and land-line telephones. Furthermore, people carry their phone with them and consider it an acceptable route through which to receive personal information. Tailored mobile-phone alerts and prompts can improve medication use and disease monitoring. For patients in remote areas, mobile telephony offers a route to access care advice when no local clinical staff are available. With health systems across the world now focussing on health promotion, disease prevention and optimising the management of chronic diseases, there is also considerable scope for collecting and utilising information from patients about lifestyle without the involvement of clinicians.
In conclusion, although medical technology does have considerable potential to improve population health, quality of care and patient safety, there is currently a gap between the theoretical and empirically demonstrated benefits, particularly in developing countries. Given the lack of evidence on quality and safety improvements and on cost–benefits, future development evaluation of medical technology should explore how this gap can be overcome.
Tags: Medical, technology, information, and, communication, technology, mobile, phones, health, care, delivery
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