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Kathryn C. Brown

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The Power of Technology Can Transform Healthcare and Save Lives

Posted: 05/31/2013 9:16 am

Olivia "Bing Bing" Mann was a tiny infant with a complex, but treatable heart disease. From her home in a Chinese orphanage, it appeared virtually impossible for Bing Bing to receive the medical attention that she so urgently needed. But the London-based Swinfen Charitable Trust intervened and - utilizing the latest in telemedicine technology - was able to link baby Bing Bing with Dr. Karen Rheuben, one of the world's foremost experts in pediatric cardiology. From her offices halfway around the world, Dr. Rheuben, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth, virtually provided local caregivers with guidance on how to treat Bing Bing, who underwent the first in a series of life-saving surgeries. Today, Bing Bing is a thriving, happy three-year-old living a fuller and healthier life with her adoptive family in Pennsylvania.

Bing Bing's story reinforces that, despite the myriad of challenges facing our healthcare system today - including rising healthcare costs and the lack of quality and access to healthcare - there is a tremendous opportunity to use new technology tools to transform the way healthcare is delivered, especially to those most vulnerable - children, women and seniors - in remote or rural areas.

One of the ways we can speed this process is by putting next-generation technologies - like the power of cloud-based telemedicine - into the hands of innovative organizations, like the Swinfen Charitable Trust, who can help address these pressing social challenges.

Swinfen Charitable Trust has an established network of hundreds of renowned physicians around the world. These medical professionals volunteer their time to provide free consultations to healthcare workers in rural or remote parts of the world so these providers may, in turn, treat patients for an unfamiliar illness. And the Swinfen volunteers are able to deliver this expert care from anywhere in the world because of technology: mobile-based telemedicine and a secure, medical-grade cloud for the storing and exchange of patient health information and case referrals. And this is the tip of the technology iceberg.

It is important that companies continue to partner with innovative healthcare nonprofits and programs like these, to help them further expand telemedicine into developing countries where it can give patients like baby Bing Bing a chance to live.

Verizon's partnership with Swinfen Charitable Trust and the University of Virginia Health System allows healthcare workers to send patient information - including photos, X-rays and medical histories - through a secure, Internet-based messaging system to a network of more than 500 specialists across the globe to get more information and direction on care.

Telemedicine has been an effective healthcare resource for the last 25 years in countries with more developed healthcare infrastructure. In the last decade, the use of wireless networks and devices in telemedicine applications has become a critical link in reducing the tremendous disparities in global public healthcare access and delivery. These technologies are innovative in their simplicity and their potential. By utilizing existing networks and the cellular technology that is already in use by millions worldwide, we can deliver quality healthcare that is medically, culturally and socioeconomically relevant to patients. By delivering healthcare and health education via the same device that patients use to communicate with their loved ones and communities, we have the opportunity to improve health outcomes from the ground up by impacting the healthcare delivery system and its ability to scale to meet patient and disease demands.

By using existing wireless and broadband capabilities, we can lay the foundation for the medical experts who can really get this transformative work done. It is all about collaboration that steps outside of the research space into public-private partnerships to identify the most promising healthcare solutions and deliver the most powerful answers. Together, we can uncover new ways to use technology innovations to address society's deepest needs and continue to break through healthcare barriers.

This article is the second in a series covering the topics and initiatives discussed at the Social Innovation Summit, a private, invitation-only forum that explores "What's Next?" in the world of social innovation. For more information on the Social Innovation Summit please visit socinnovation.com. For real time updates on announcements and attendees follow us on Twitter at @socinnovation.

 
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