E-Healthcare for Rural Areas

E-Healthcare for Rural AreasE-Healthcare for Rural Areas

A new nationwide e-healthcare project supported by electronic processes and communications is underway in a number of provinces.

In a joint effort, the Health Ministry and Barekat Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding to employ telemedical infrastructures including telecommunication and information technologies to provide clinical healthcare to all rural regions.

Complemented by electronic health files, the system will help eliminate barriers of distance and improve access to medical services that would often “not be available in distant rural communities,” reports IRNA.

“Currently, 200,000 people have e-health records and can take advantage of telemedicine. The number will surpass 320,000 by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2016),” said Seyed Mohammad Pourhosseini, CEO of Barekatel (Barekat Pharmaceutical Industrial City), affiliated to Barekat Foundation.

Barekat Foundation, dedicated to creating entrepreneurs, building schools, and infrastructural development in remote regions, is affiliated to the Setad (a special office for executing the decrees of Imam Khomeini in helping the underprivileged). It has implemented several projects in the lesser developed regions since 2007, and now seeks to integrate e-health in government and private sectors to promote services for rural people in all health-related areas, including food and medicine.

Recent developments in mobile collaboration technology allow healthcare professionals in multiple locations to share information, discuss problems, and practice medicine through social workers as if they are all in the same place, without the patient having to visit them, Pourhosseini noted.

 Patient Monitoring

Telemedicine also allows remote patient monitoring through mobile technology and reduces the need for outpatient visits; it enables remote prescription verification and drug administration, and has the potential to significantly reduce the overall cost of medical care.

Virtual practice of medicine may include downsides such as high cost of telecommunication and data management equipment, need for technical training of medical personnel, lesser human interaction between medical professionals and patients, increased risk of error when medical services are delivered in the absence of a registered professional and risks that confidential health information may be compromised through electronic storage and transmission.

However, the method will be more beneficial than not to home-bound patients and those who feel uncomfortable in a doctor’s office (white-coat syndrome), patients with infectious diseases and people living in isolated communities and remote regions.

The project so far has been piloted in the counties of Paveh (Kermanshah Province), Kaleybar (East Azarbaijan) and Zehak (Sistan-Baluchestan)

“Osku county in East Azarbaijan and Qom Theological School in Qom Province, will benefit from the technology by the end of the current year,” Pourhosseini said, adding that the groundwork has been laid in training, software and hardware.