How Video Conferencing Boosts Medical Care in the Third World

It’s no exaggeration to say that the story of Dr. Mark Stavros and his team of trainee doctors is the most inspiring story of Avaya’s 2013 customer innovation awards.

On a recent trip to Panama to treat rural villagers, Dr. Stavros and his students from Florida State University’s College of medicine in Tallahassee used high-tech medical kits provided by healthcare tech provider GlobalMed – think laptops inside ruggedized, silver briefcases – that included Scopia videoconferencing.

According to Stavros, he, his team of seven first and second year medical students and other FSU faculty benefited greatly from using the telemedicine-enabled laptops, which connect to electronic stethoscopes and other 21st-century peripherals.

“We took live video and shared that with doctors back in Florida. We also could do ultrasounds and EKG and input that data straight into the laptop and also show it to the patients,” said Stavros, who is a teaching physician at FSU’s medical school specializing in emergency medicine, during an inteview at the International Avaya Users Group (IAUG) conference in Orlando this week.

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Pictures courtesy of GlobalMed

Stavros and his team were in a village called Filipinas, 2 hours west of Panama City. The patients they saw during their week there are farmers who mostly raise cattle and grow a starchy vegetable called yucca, also known as cassava.

Roads are poor – Stavros and his team from FSU Cares had to walk a mile and a half with their equipment to get to Filipinas- and electricity was in short supply. Stavros and his doctors often had to resort to hooking up
their computers to portable generators or to their car batteries. Internet connectivity was also an issue. Wi-Fi was rare.
When it was not available the doctors would use Stavros’s 3G cellular card. “When I had good reception, the video quality was pretty good,” he said, When reception was poor, Stavros’ doctors would use Scopia to take high-res pictures instead of video that they would upload when connectivity improved.

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Overcoming those obstacles was worth it. “The patients loved it. We could do an ultrasound and show the baby’s heartbeat on the screen to the whole family,” he said.

Watch the two-minute video produced by GlobalMed about Stavros’ trip.

In the near-term, Stavros would like to expand the use of the Scopia-enabled kits to enable his doctors in the field to work with FSU medical specialists back home to do true patient diagnoses via remote. And some day, he even envisions self-service healthcare, whereby local villagers are trained to use the telemedicine kits themselves in order to communicate and get diagnosed by remote doctors. That, he says, would be “fantastic.”

Learn more about the FSUCares
, which relies wholly on student fundraising and donations.

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