One of the main benefits technology brings to the healthcare community is the elimination of distance barriers. Through advanced telecommunication, physicians are getting a chance to see how other countries handle treatment obstacles.

Not every hospital has access to cutting-edge tools and medications. Practitioners in less developed areas sometimes have to think out of the box in order to save a life. That is what a group of anesthesia residents from the University of Virginia are finding out through an innovative program that allows them to consult with doctors in Rwanda.

The Program

This summer, the University of Virginia anesthesia residents took part in a telemedicine program that allowed them to discuss challenging cases with their counterparts in the African Republic of Rwanda. The study, managed by Marcel Durieux, MD, PhD, gives both sides a chance to learn how other medical professionals handle patients in their respective locations. Dr. Durieux, a professor of anesthesiology at UVA, explains how the department uses telemedicine channels to set up monthly conferences between the two factions.

American students don’t understand the challenges these underdeveloped countries face. After all, there are only 11 anesthesiologists in the entire country of Rwanda, notes Durieux. UVA’s goal is to break down the walls and allow U.S. residents to exchange ideas with these isolated anesthesiologists. The benefit to the Rwandan community is the enhanced training that Rwandan doctors would not otherwise have access to during their careers.

Sharing Stories

The monthly teleconference allows Rwandan physicians to present a case one month and American residents the next. This alternating pattern gives both sides a chance to see what medical care is like across the globe. The UVA anesthesiology residents attempt to pick cases that are relevant to Rwandan doctors and that use technology available to them.

Learning from History

One of the key benefits to the UVA and Rwanda collaboration is the ability to go back and review cases to discuss and defend the rationale behind the provided treatments. This teleconference allows the doctors to revisit cases and talk about the options available at the time. This form of study is not common in Rwanda, according to Dr. Julia Weinkauf, a member of the facility at both UVA and the University Central Hospital of Kigali. The review process is lacking in their training standards but is a necessary part of becoming an academic physician.

The program between UVA and Rwanda is the first of its kind for anesthesiology in Africa, but the university conducts a similar platform for surgeons. The school also has an active telemedicine program that offers distance medicine to rural areas of Virginia.

Through advancements in technology, doctors are learning ways to improve the care they give patients by opening up discussions with colleagues all over the world. These collaborative efforts will enhance medicine internationally and let researchers and healthcare professionals learn from one another.

 

Bio: Darla Ferrara is a full-time freelance writer published internationally and an award-winning author. Publishing credits include USARiseUP, MedCity News, New York Times About.com, AOL and LiveStrong. Ferrarastudied biology at the University of Nebraska and emergency medical technology at Southeast Community College.

Sources:
http://www.anesthesiologynews.com/ViewArticle.aspx?d=PRN&d_id=21&i=October+2013&i_id=1002&a_id=24180&tab=RecentComments

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