Media in Medicine: the Reality of the Digital Divide

Two quick reads to munch on tonight about the imbalance in the accessibility to health information created by economic disparities and lack of infrastructure, among other reasons, in developing countries.

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Allen Cheng of The Next Generation shares his point with us.

An established information infrastructure in the developed world has made accessing health information a facile task. In a span of minutes a patient may coddle his curiosity by self-diagnosing an illness, investigating the origin of the disease, reading on different treatment options, and checking the background of relevant doctors and hospitals, all tasks simplified by the wide availability of the internet. Recent medical information and research journals can be disseminated to doctors, describing current trends in disease or new treatment methods. Colleagues can consult each other across the country instantaneously, ensuring the best treatments for their patients. Electronic medical record systems allow seamless sharing of patient data among different clinics, documenting histories, drug regimens, referrals, and existing conditions. These capabilities save time and reduce mistakes.

In contrast, health workers in impoverished countries are starved of the relevant information typically accessible to their colleagues in other places. Hospitals in remote areas with virtually no roads, electricity, or basic communication means often have to function almost autonomously without access to medical information or colleague support. In turn, the hospitals are difficult to monitor, making assessment of healthcare standards difficult. While improving conditions in a developing country will eventually spill into its healthcare sector, a host of obstacles currently hinders physicians who desire the best for their patients.

Finish this important and insightful article here. Apparently, according to the same article, some solutions implemented have failed and may have wasted valuable resources in these countries. The above perspective was published just a couple of months ago.

We go back to an article about 7 years back by the Bristish Medical Journal similarly wailing on this seeming great divide.

Information and communication technologies have not been harnessed systematically to improve the health of populations in developing countries.

These technologies empower those who use information by providing them with a choice of information to be accessed in their own time and by allowing them to put their own information on the web.

The current digital divide is more dramatic than any other inequity in health or income .

The quality of health information available on the web is inconsistent, and the visibility of research from developing countries is limited.

The way forward is to exploit the full interactivity of the internet, which allows rapid feedback and change to continuously mould information into useful knowledge.

I may have a very simplistic notion of this problem. I do recognize the enormity and the complexity of these issues once in the field. But my take is this, start small. Perhaps if we aim to start implementing solutions at a more manageable and affordable level, with strong measures of sustainability and maintenance in place, we might just move a step forward. As with many solutions offered, many intents would be noble. But there is a difference between intents and carrying through. One way to ensure this is to see it in as many possible dimensions and angles as possible, looking closely or moving far from it, including even the simple intent and theory. And the working button for this might I suppose could mean in the same spirit, boldness, and starting cost as those of the green, small, and handy? 😉

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~ by Karina Descartin on 22 February 2008.

3 Responses to “Media in Medicine: the Reality of the Digital Divide”

  1. This thought seems to be one that more people are exploring. Here’s another link to chew on:
    http://www.healthbeatblog.org/2008/02/in-defense-of-t.html?cid=101988960

    My commentary on it is here:
    http://www.knowprose.com/node/18450

    Based on your post, I may have to revisit this within the next week. You lent me some new perspective. 🙂

  2. Hi Taran,
    Thanks for dropping by. And thanks for sharing more of those delicious courses. 😉 I will check them out in a few days and get back to you. All the best!

  3. […] a very tricky resource allocation issue and a multitude of complex factors (realities of the great digital divide for one) lie before humanity in this particular challenge to use the best of (medical) technology […]

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