Telemedicine at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital, Sri lanka

June 19, 2007 | By admin | Reply More

Telecentres Growing in Sri LankaSri Lanka, June 19, 2007: The Information and Communication Technology Agency’s Nenasala Project entered new ground when it opened its first Hospital Nenasala at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital on the 11th of June 2007 under the patronage of the Hon. Minister of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Kurunegala District MP. Mr. Jayarathna Herath. This new venture has been made possible through the partnership of the ICTA with the Human Genetics Unit of the Medical Faculty University of Colombo and the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital.The significance of this latest ICTA initiative is that it opens up new opportunities in healthcare for remote rural communities. For the poor, a healthy body is an important asset and ill health can have serious implications to their capacity for earning a living. Yet, providing quality healthcare to the vast majority of the poor living in remote rural areas is a significant challenge. One of the many ways in which ICT can facilitate health care is through remote consultation, diagnosis, and treatment through telemedicine. An inconceivable phenomenon not too long ago, it is now a fast growing reality; a patient in a remote rural area being able to obtain expert advice from a specialist in Colombo without having to move out of his local environment is an extraordinary development. Although it has yet to bring a paradigm shift in the delivery of healthcare services, increasing sophistication in supporting technologies such as telecommunication, mobile monitoring devices etc has made telemedicine systems much more potent than ever before.

This initiative of the ICT Agency seeks to take the dividends of the highly specialized field of Human Genetics to rural communities through an ICT platform and draws on the infrastructure facilities of the newest Nenasala at the Kurunegala Hospital and that of the Koslanda Nenasala.

There are thousands of disorders caused by genetic defects, some of which are very rare, while others such as Thalassaemia are common and affect a large number of people. Taken as a whole, the number of people affected by genetic disorders is quite significant and comprises a sizeable percentage of the population. Since these conditions cause long term disability, the effect on the economy of the country due to the drain on health care and social services is enormous. For instance, the treatment of Thalassaemia alone takes up 5% of the country’s healthcare budget. When a genetic condition affects a family, it usually affects more than one member. Occasionally entire communities are affected by such disorders, as is in the case of Thalassaemia which is highly prevalent in the Wayamba Province. Since no cure is available for these disorders the only way to reduce the burden of such disorders to the country’s social and economic infrastructure is to provide appropriate counseling to affected families on management of the disease and thus prevent transmission of the condition to future generations. Proper medical advice and guidance also enable such families to better understand their condition and try to live as productive a life as possible.

There is only one centre in Sri Lanka providing such clinical genetic services, the Human Genetics Unit of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. It isn’t possible for everyone to come to Colombo to seek their advice, especially because some of the people affected with genetic disorders are disabled and cannot travel far. The development of an islandwide network of Nenasalas equipped with ICT infrastructure and broadband connectivity has opened up an array of opportunities in the field of healthcare. The Human Genetics Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Colombo can now be contacted online without the need to come to Colombo for a physical examination. This telegenetic project, which is probably the only one of its kind in the world, is aimed at giving the opportunity to remote communities to get the best genetic advice available in the country, which is on par with that anywhere in the world, via videoconferencing with the clinical geneticists in the Human Genetics Unit; Prof. Rohan W Jayasekara, Dr. Vajira H. W. Dissanayake and Dr. Prabha Mallawarachchi.

The pilot programme of this project involves online consultations with patients of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital and the Koslanda District Hospital and will be coordinated through the Kurunegala Hospital Nenasala and the Koslanda Nenasala.

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Category: ICT for Development

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