Building on Jonathan Spalter’s blog from a few weeks ago, I would also like to discuss the application of cell phones to the dilemmas faced in rural medicine. When my family moved from Washington, D.C. to Montana, I realized that there was a lot more than just real estate to consider when moving from a busy metropolis to quieter community. When you live in large city, your healthcare options are numerous from different hospitals to alternative medicine and cutting edge technology. In many rural areas, it’s not that easy.
However, advancements in cellular and medical technology and the expansion of network coverage have resulted in healthcare breakthroughs in rural areas that are applicable in the U.S. and abroad. Recent achievements include:
Cell phones attached to EKG (electrocardiogram) devices that can continuously collect and monitor data on heart rhythms. If a patient’s heart rhythm becomes dangerous, the cell phone calls the emergency room. Doctors are alerted by the phone call and can then begin to diagnose and prepare to treat the patient upon arrival at the hospital. This is critical for long ambulance rides to the hospital in which every minute counts and can literally be the difference between life, disability or death.
- The scanner mentioned in Jonathan Spalter’s blog can spot simulated breast tumors and is field testing spotting internal bleeding, a frequent cause of post-childbirth deaths in developing countries.
- A speech therapy program, nicknamed Baldi, is a computer program that features an animated language tutor and has helped autistic and hearing-impaired children learn to talk. This program is currently being adapted for the cell phone screen and is hoping to aid Malaysian stroke victims. Forty-thousand Malaysians suffer strokes each year and a third of survivors have speech impairments. Cell phones reach about twice as much of Malaysia as Internet access so if the Baldi program is successful at virtual therapy via cell phone, the government of Malaysia has agreed to "help provide cell phones," according to the leader of the research team, Sri Kurniawan.
To learn more about these research efforts, you can read about them in this article from the San Jose Mercury news.
Additional medical applications of cellular technology are utilizing the text message feature on cell phones. With over 250 million wireless subscribers in the United States, many of whom take one or more prescription drugs, some companies have created applications that allow you to look up your prescription drug information and sends text reminders for when you are supposed to take your pills. These applications are particularly useful for avoiding negative drug interactions. For those of us who are extremely busy and/or forgetful, it’s great for keeping track of dosages and following the prescribed schedule set by your doctor.
With all the advancements in medical and cellular technology, there are sure to be many more healthcare breakthroughs in the future, and this can only mean good things for rural healthcare in the U.S. and abroad.