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Telemedicine: Providing Greater Access to Medical Care

The global healthcare industry’s goal of improving healthcare outcomes while lowering costs has driven the shift from one-to-one healthcare delivery to a one-to-many model of care that enables long-distance medical consultations and remote monitoring using telecommunications. While the concept of telemedicine is not new – it was in some ways a method of healthcare delivery well ahead of its time – beginning as a way to extend hospital care to patients in remote areas. In the 1950s, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre Children’s Hospital began sending radiology images via a telephone line between two townships, in what is recognized as one of the earliest examples of electronic medical record transfer. Telemedicine is currently used in 86 countries around the world and its capabilities have expanded significantly.

Modern Healthcare Delivery

Now, in the digital age, understanding telemedicine is imperative for healthcare industry decision makers, as the benefits of mobile health (mHealth) are being realized in countries across the globe. Modern telemedicine includes data collecting devices – like wearable technology and vital-sign monitoring tools – as well as voice calls, video conferencing, mobile applications and SMS which enable information sharing and communication between patients and clinicians. As technology develops and more devices are connected to the internet, the breadth of telemedicine uses will continue to transform the way patients receive care.

Global Success of Telemedicine

Over the last 60 years the adoption of telemedicine as a safe and effective form of healthcare delivery has seen great success in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Europe. Now, in the US there are about 200 telemedicine networks, with 3,500 service sites across the country; and in Europe, the telemedicine market is worth an estimated USD $6.2 billion. The value proposition of telemedicine is largely significant cost savings to the healthcare systems, and increased access to quality care for patients. Medgate is one of the best examples of the successful adoption of telemedicine in Europe. Based in Switzerland, Medgate is Europe’s largest telemedicine provider operated by physicians – a model which was successfully brought to the UAE in 2014 in a joint venture with Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Company.

Bringing Global Innovation to the Emirates

Through Medgate’s relationship with Mubadala we have been able to bring high-quality, proven technology and our specialized telemedicine training and guidelines to the UAE, with the formation of Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre. In sharing our knowledge – and over 15 years of telemedicine experience – with the Centre’s team of general practitioners and registered nurses, we’re enabling them to provide a safe, convenient and effective telephone-based medical consultation service to eligible patients across the Emirates.

Telemedicine is well positioned in the UAE, particularly given patients’ increasing ease with technology in their consumer activities combined with growing awareness of non-communicable diseases common in the region – like type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The future of mHealth is very promising – as we’ve seen at Medgate – innovative communication solutions are continuously being introduced into the healthcare sector which means that Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre has the full potential to expand its reach and drive the future of healthcare delivery in the Emirates and the region.

Andy Fischer

Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre Board Member; CEO, Medgate, ISfTEH President

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