In recent years, Coves have teamed up with a faculty of The George Institute in Sydney and the University of Sydney with the aim of studying and improving techniques and communications between medical centres in the Solomon Islands and with St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.
Here’s an overview of a study completed over the last 3 years and lead by Dr Alex Martiniuck:
Telemedicine is used worldwide and is particularly touted as useful for rural environments and low and middle-income settings where human resources may be limited. Local clinicians, administrators and other stakeholders indicate telemedicine is a priority in the Solomon Islands. This study sought to describe the current use of telemedicine in the Solomon Islands as well as its strengths, weaknesses and suggestions for future use. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to address the objectives. Descriptive analyses and cross-tabulations of clinician, patient, and health centre data posted to the telemedicine platform over approximately 3 years were conducted. Qualitative one-on-one interviews were conducted with stakeholders in the Solomon Islands and in Australia to better understand the current use, strengths, weaknesses and future use of telemedicine. During the study period (Jan 2006-June 2009) 66 cases were posted to the system. A range of health conditions characterised these postings including: orthopaedic, oncology, cardio-thoracic, infectious, congenital, gastroenterology, dermatology and others. Qualitative interviews highlighted the fragility of the Solomon technology framework, including the lack of training, as the largest barrier to increasing the use of telemedicine. Telemedicine is a hopeful technology to increase efficiencies-including cost savings- around patient referrals, advice on patient diagnoses and management and thus benefit the health of the Solomon Islands people.
Acknowledgements: We thank Sir Trevor Garland, Consul of the Solomon Islands to Sydney, Australia for his support and the developers of the iPath telepathology software at the University of Basel. Funding for data collection and for travel to the Solomon Islands was provided by Rotary International (Sydney Cove Club).