[b]Not long ago, famous American scientist Kenneth Brockman — a 2005 Nobel Prize winner (for developments in radiation safety) gave a lecture at Gomel’s State Medical University.[/b] Needless to say, information technologies are ever advancing, turning yesterday’s dreams into reality. The aim of our modern intellectual revolution is to make our lives easier. Promotion of informatisation is among the top priorities of Belarusian state policy and, in years to come, should embrace every sphere. Online education and telemedicine are obvious applications, but computer systems can be used for all manner of purposes — from calculating fuel consumption to helping trade. Moreover, it’s a cost-effective way of raising access to a range of services.
Needless to say, information technologies are ever advancing, turning yesterday’s dreams into reality. The aim of our modern intellectual revolution is to make our lives easier. Promotion of informatisation is among the top priorities of Belarusian state policy and, in years to come, should embrace every sphere. Online education and telemedicine are obvious applications, but computer systems can be used for all manner of purposes — from calculating fuel consumption to helping trade. Moreover, it’s a cost-effective way of raising access to a range of services.
Around a decade ago, the Gomel Medical University’s Pro-rector for Clinical Work, Dmitry Ruzanov, became acquainted with telemedicine, on a visit to Gomel’s twin-city of Aberdeen. “Since it’s an island state, it’s impossible to have doctors and narrow specialists everywhere, so telemedicine is well-developed here. Naturally, I was impressed and keen to introduce the idea domestically. Success is taking time but we can already speak of positive initial results,” he says.
During his years of work on the Telemedicine project, Mr. Ruzanov has become convinced that there are advantages and endless possibilities. Training and consultations can be provided, regardless of distance. Expert advice can even be given during surgical operations.
The district town of Petrikov is two or three hours from Gomel but the local clinic’s ‘telecommunication’ room connects it to the regional centre and the capital (via the Internet). Mr. Ruzanov explains, “An online council of leading specialists can be gathered, from the region or countrywide, to look at the results of medical examinations. Information is analysed, with district doctors and the patient communicating online, allowing diagnosis to be made and treatment specified. The quality of the transmission is so good that you can listen to a heartbeat from 100km away. Telemedicine is bringing highly qualified medical aid to rural areas of the Republic.”
The Buda-Koshelevo District is less than 100km from Gomel, within an hour’s drive of the regional centre, yet the local territorial medical association’s head doctor, Oleg Kisten, advocates telemedicine without doubt. He comments, “We joined the project in 2011, hardly spending much to install the equipment. In fact, our main challenge was persuading specialists to change their routine and have confidence in our initiative. Fortunately, we’ve now moved forward, going from just 18 teleconsultations in the first year to, at least, ten a month. The results are evident. Previously, we had to wait for results to be returned to our district clinic from the Gomel hospital, which ‘wasted’ time. We had access to a regional consultant but this also took time and money. These days, we can connect to specialists in particular fields, enabling us to dispel doubt.”
Mr. Kisten recollects a recent case, “We had a patient suffering from pneumonia. Treatment seemed obvious but we saw no improvement so something was wrong. Using our telecommunication channels, we contacted Gomel’s Medical University, whose specialists noticed a faint tumour. Diagnosis was clear eventually and proper treatment chosen.” He’s convinced that this promising medical avenue should be promoted, explaining, “This year, we plan to launch teletraining for staff. Leading doctors across the region will train personnel on more unusual procedures, so they know how to proceed.”
Fifteen Gomel Region districts are already applying telemedicine, with a threelateral connection established (region — district — Republic). However, it’s necessary to ‘bind’ all districts, doing this as quickly as possible. As specialists admit, it’s not an issue of finances but of psychology. More doctors need to ‘come onboard’ with the idea to achieve progress. Mr. Ruzanov has even greater plans, saying, “We’ll trial telemedicine in village clinics this year, and aim to adhere to European telemedical standards, using ICT and the expertise of our specialists.”
By Violetta Dralyuk