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Potential Impact of Telehealth on Socio-Economic Stability and Sustainability in the Process of Globalization

IJED, Vol. 6 No. 4, (2004)

Sustainable socio-economic development depends upon a well-trained and healthy workforce. Family health also influences worker stability. Access to healthcare in both rural and urban settings is a world-wide challenge: No nation can afford to replicate comprehensive health care resources in every large and small community. On the other hand, as the potential for Internet access approaches universality, consumer access to health information potentially will cease to be a limiting factor, and this fact will change the role of healthcare providers. Previously the custodians of health information, providers are now becoming advisers about the use, specific relevance, and applicability of that health information in individual situations. Telenetworking may be the only economically viable way to make healthcare resources available to individuals throughout communities, regions, or nations. However, although clinicians in different settings will use the same information to address a problem, they will do so using perspectives modified by their local cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic environment. The broadband infrastructure required for cost-effective, sustainable telehealthcare has much in common with the infrastructure requirements for tele-education, tele-business, and tele-government: A unique healthcare telecommunication infrastructure is not necessary. Telehealth can leverage commercial telecommunications networks, but universal access to basic healthcare services and health information must be, at least in part, a governmental responsibility. Thus, it is essential that barriers to universal broadband access be overcome through combinations of commercial business activity and public policy. The resulting general access will contribute importantly to long-term economic and political stability and sustainability. Tele-optimized population health is a nationally-, ethnically-, religiously-, governmentally-, and racially-neutral bonus that can result from coordinated application of medical and telecommunication resources and capacity.

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