Unlocking The Door to Outsourced Healthcare.

As far as the patient is concerned, if a clinical process can be carried out remotely it matters little whether the clinician is in the next room, a nearby building or, for that matter, another country. It is therefore no surprise that outsourcing is becoming an issue just as a significant number of ehealth applications move beyond trial phase.

During the past two years the concept of telemedicine (as ehealth was known before the Dot Com revolution) has been turned on its head. It was thought that remote healthcare would be used to take advanced clinical processes, available in the West, to patients in remote areas of developing, or underdeveloped, countries.

A number of pilot projects were set up, usually involving publicity hungry clinicians and the marketing departments of telecoms companies. The public were sold the idea that chest x-rays could be transmitted from small villages in Africa and Asia to the radiology departments of London hospitals. Diseases would be diagnosed and suggested treatments relayed to medical staff in the developing country. These systems were economically unsustainable and once the telecoms company that supplied the international broadband connection, and the clinician who provided the medical expertise, had gained the media exposure they were seeking the projects were quietly abandoned.

Today’s version of telemedicine, now on offer from a number of outsourcing vendors, is somewhat different. These companies believe it will be the x-ray images of patients in developed countries that travel halfway around the world – and it will be radiologists in developing countries who diagnose the patient’s condition.  This time the business case is sound – however clinicians in the West have gone decidedly cool on the idea.

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