The U.S. Department of State has formed a telemedicine public-private partnership in Pakistan, demonstrating the power of high-speed internet connectivity in improving social services in remote areas.
Other partners include IBM [International Business Machines Corporation], Wateen Telecom, Motorola, Medweb, U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Defense Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Center, Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, District Headquarters Hospital in Attock, and the government of Pakistan.
Telemedicine enables healthcare providers to deliver high quality medical services for patients in remote locations – services that would otherwise be lacking or absent. The public-private partnership is using telemedicine to help broaden and strengthen technical capabilities, supporting the Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi in its outreach to the region.
"The goal of this project," said Dr. Asif Zafar, a telemedicine expert, "is to highlight technology's ability to overcome a significant healthcare imbalance – more than seventy-percent of the population [of Pakistan] lives in rural areas but only twenty-two percent of doctors work there."
In addition to assembling this public-private partnership, the U.S. government contributed $220,000 to purchase state-of-the-art telemedicine equipment and services to operate the project. The Pakistan telemedicine project has already provided expanded medical care to hundreds of patients – pro-operative planning and follow-up; cardiac assessment; ophthalmology, dermatology, radiology, infectious disease, and peri-natal evaluations and medical triage for traumas and acute illness.
The U.S. Pakistan Telemedicine Project extends the United States-Pakistan Strategic Partnership, which was formed in 2006. Since 2002, the U.S. has provided more than $3.4 billion to Pakistan to improve economic growth, education, health, and governance, and to assist with earthquake reconstruction.
"The U.S. Department of State, through the Pakistan Telemedicine Project, is demonstrating the transformative power of telecommunications technology under the U.S. government's Digital Freedom Initiative, which seeks to encourage the spread of technology to the developing world," said Ferial Saeed, Deputy U.S. Coordinator and Office Director for International Communications and Information Policy. "Under this public-private partnership," said Ms. Saeed, "we hope to demonstrate how technology and Internet-based connectivity can significantly improve the quality of life for remote populations."