Originally published: February 9, 2010
Last updated: November 29, 2010 - 11:33am
In the desperate days soon after the earthquake in Haiti last month, foreign medical volunteers relied on improvised, low-tech devices for consultations and coordination. But American doctors are switching to more sophisticated technology to help improve public health in Haiti, one of the world's poorest nations.
Telehealth, better known as telemedicine, is an offshoot of the space program; it was developed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the 1960s to serve the astronauts. In the live, real-time version, it involves a video hookup between a patient on the scene and a doctor or other health professional in a hospital or office. Sometimes a doctor or nurse on the scene will consult via telemedicine with a specialist elsewhere. At the University of Miami's 240-bed tent hospital near the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where volunteer surgeons from the United States have performed 1,000 operations since the Jan. 12 earthquake, doctors should soon be able to consult via satellite with specialists in Miami and other medical centers.
The satellite connection should provide sufficient bandwidth for telemedicine consultations; meanwhile, the Haiti field hospital is making do with high-speed Internet connections donated by a Miami philanthropist and connections through Access Haiti, a wireless regional network linked through the neighboring Dominican Republic.
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