Telemedicine from the point of view of citizens

Seppo Laurikkala
2004 International Journal of Circumpolar Health  
Farmer, Chairman of the municipal board of health, The Town of Pyhäjärvi, Finland For several years, I have been an elected municipal official in a small town with 6500 inhabitants, located in a scarcely populated area of northern Finland. I know that the ageing population, modern expensive medical technology and an increasing demand for care are the principal reasons for the facts that health services have become jammed and waiting lists are getting longer. I also know that the gap between the
more » ... the gap between the resources available in our town and the need for care among the inhabitants is widening in an alarming manner. As representatives of the citizens, we on the municipal health board are very concerned with the situation However, we do possess some strategic tools to face up to these challenges. One of the most important of these is, to my mind, telemedicine. In the following, I will reflect both on my own opinions, and on those I have heard in discussions with my fellow citizens. Our health centre was among the earliest pioneers of Finland in using telemedicine for the delivery of health services. We have used it since 1996 on a regular basis in video-conferencing with the University Hospital of Oulu, first in surgery and afterwards also in psychiatry. Distant education using the same video-conferencing equipment has also been implemented in the continuous professional education of the staff of our health centre for several years. I believe that the most important benefit of telemedicine is the fact that the patient, the doctor and the nurse can communicate mutually and interactively, regardless of distances. In a scarcely populated country such as in Finland, this significantly improves access to specialized health-care services. The distance between the health centre of Pyhäjärvi and the University Hospital of Oulu is 160 km. A simple visit to and from the out-patient department of the hospital takes 8 -10 hours for our inhabitants. It is a long time for a short appointment with a specialist for anybody, and especially for sick and old people. Using telemedicine, both time and travelling costs are saved. It not only concerns the patient, but often also her/his relatives. Many of the old patients need an escort for a visit to the hospital. Escorting is easily arranged for a short
doi:10.3402/ijch.v63i4.17762 pmid:15709320 fatcat:z6behizsr5aedfhiyaj3emkuaq