5 Ways Tablets Can Improve Third-World Healthcare

March 29, 2016
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Despite the eagerness of the healthcare industry to embrace mobile devices, the adoption of this technology has been relatively slow. Security, the privacy of patient information, and the integration of back-end systems are just a few reasons people list as challenges. Plus, with so many available applications to choose from, organizations in the industry find it difficult to pick the best ones for their needs. 

Despite the eagerness of the healthcare industry to embrace mobile devices, the adoption of this technology has been relatively slow. Security, the privacy of patient information, and the integration of back-end systems are just a few reasons people list as challenges. Plus, with so many available applications to choose from, organizations in the industry find it difficult to pick the best ones for their needs. 

However, for environments lacking in resources, such as Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, the portability, low costs, and innovative features of these devices are greatly improving the quality of healthcare. In these areas, resources like clean water, electricity, and steady supply chains are not as commonplace as they are in developed countries. And medical personnel in third-world countries are often limited by both a lack of training and equipment. 

Most people in developing countries also rely on mobile technologies and basic computers rather than more sophisticated equipment. Patients in lower-income areas are much more likely to own phones than computers — as a result, the equipment and communication common in developed areas do not always work as well as tablets would. 

As healthcare driven by tablets is adopted, many believe the shift is essential in the developing world. 

Tablets upgrade third-world healthcare. 

Tablets are not just an inexpensive alternative in a resource-poor area. They provide a number of advantages for both the patient and the healthcare worker. Because of the design and features of mobile technology, it is often better suited for these kinds of environments than more complex and more expensive equipment. 

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Here are five ways tablets make third-world healthcare better: 

1. Tablets extend geographic access. 

Mobile devices are able to go where it is impractical — or sometimes impossible — to bring complicated equipment. Tablets can also make the distance between physicians and patients seem much smaller through telemedicine. Instead of meeting in person, patients and physicians communicate through videoconferencing, help lines, or instant messaging. 

Telemedicine is especially important because specialists are rare and are often located in more centralized areas. Health workers in the Philippines used M-DOK, a mobile health system, to text patient information to specialists. And in India, telemedicine is being used to improve the treatment of dialysis patients and to decrease the cost of end-stage kidney patients by 90 percent

2. Tablets facilitate patient communications. 

In the developing world, patient interactions are different because the doctor’s office is not always nearby, resulting in less common follow-up visits. Any sort of diagnosis or treatment decision will need to be made during the visit — or not at all. 

Tablets allow communication between health workers and patients to extend beyond regular office visits. Patients receive general health education and emergency care, while workers can protect patient privacy and encourage compliance. Japan’s Wireless Health Care@Home program facilitates communication by permitting patients in remote areas to send information to doctors and take responsibility for their own health. 

3. Tablets lower healthcare costs.  

Healthcare in developing countries is getting more expensive. Tablet technologies reduce this financial burden by providing more avenues for healthcare delivery and by letting more patients connect with their healthcare providers. Mobile health applications can give both patients and healthcare workers access to information relating to reference materials, labs, and medical records. 

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Around the world, the iPad promoted the development of applications. These apps can do more than just transmit and receive information. With them, physicians can view electrocardiograms, study the human bone system and medical imaging, and obtain optometric information. Using a healthcare app is generally less expensive than using the equipment common in developed countries. 

4. Tablets improve diagnosis and treatment.  

Mobile healthcare technology can assist with training and disease management by providing real-time monitoring and treatment to both patients and providers. There are applications that can track everything from calories and prescriptions to appointments for checkups. 

In South Africa, healthcare workers now have a library of clinical resources at their disposal because of their tablets. Regardless of where they are, nurses and physicians have the latest medical information related to diagnosis, treatment, and medication at their fingertips. 

5. Tablets upgrade data management.  

Tablets can improve data collection, organization, and analysis. Large amounts of data can be gathered and used to make critical decisions. Tablets also reduce the amount of paperwork that needs to be done. By taking data directly from forms in patient care systems, tablets reduce the risk of introducing errors — saving time, energy, and money. 

Technology is a vital part of healthcare improvement for third-world countries. Tablets reduce problems associated with distance and limited access to resources, and they benefit both patients and health workers by aiding in diagnosing medical problems and tracking patient health. While the industry as a whole is still sorting out exactly how it wants to use this mobile technology, it has already impacted the quality of public health in the developing world.