Improving healthcare in remote areas

Imagine for a moment that you live a considerable distance from your nearest acute hospital.  Maybe you don’t have to imagine, maybe this is reality for you.  Millions of people all over the world live several hours from their local hospital.  Even in the UK, inhabitants of more rural areas and some island communities may face long journeys, sometimes by sea or air, to reach their main hospital.

What happens when they are faced with needing an operation or procedure?  Long and expensive trips may be needed to meet with their Consultant, and sometimes subsequent journeys to gather background information and undertake tests to assess their suitability for the procedure.

In the UK, we are, fortunate enough to have relatively good transport links, and where patients are unable to travel to the hospital independently, they can usually rely on a patient transport network.  But how about those in less well-developed parts of the world where poor transport infrastructure could mean walking many miles, or uncomfortable journeys over pot-holed dirt roads?

Since the development of MyPreOp, some of the keenest interest has come from health care providers trying to provide quality care to communities spread over many hundreds of miles.  From African hospitals whose patients may be many hundreds of miles away, to island groups where the only access is by boat, or mountain communities facing difficult journeys on precipitous tracks, MyPreOp offers the potential to gather information without the need to access the hospital in person.

With so much of the world linked by the internet, and ownership of smart phones and computers almost universal, collecting patient information and managing the health of people in remote communities should become easier and less expensive.

Rural communities often have visiting health professionals who can undertake required tests such as height, weight and blood pressure.  They may even be able to diagnose and recommend treatment, carry out more complex testing and double check the information entered into MyPreOp is accurate and provides a clear reflection of the individuals current state of health.

This could mean the only time a patient has to travel to hospital is when they are scheduled to have their operation, which is clearly far less stressful for the individual concerned and reduces the pressure on hospital services and transport systems.

But in our green and pleasant land, surely no one is more than a short drive from their local hospital?  Whilst many, particularly in the built up south-east, do have relatively easy access, there are lots of very rural and isolated locations without access to public transport for whom trips to hospital are a logistical nightmare.

In our own region, we have the Scilly Isles where residents are reliant on a long ferry crossing or a flight that may be cancelled due to weather conditions.  The same is true for many of the island groups off the coast of Scotland, areas where communities can be cut off for long periods due to high winds and rough seas. 

The middle of Wales, the highlands of Scotland and many of our rural counties are sparsely populated, thus the main hospital can mean a long journey and with restricted public transport, travelling to and from a hospital appointment in one day can be impossible.

Whilst many e-health solutions have been devised with clinical needs in mind, some are also enabling residents in these remote communities to access healthcare more easily.  The Ultraprep range of products, where the link can be emailed through to the patient wherever they are, ensures  patients needing to be operated on, won’t face delays to their treatment due to problems obtaining an up to date and accurate preoperative assessment. 

In future, living remotely won’t automatically create problems with accessing quality healthcare.  Solutions such as the Ultramed range of products, enabling patients to maintain their own healthcare record, will help reduce the need to attend hospital other than for direct treatment.  So the vision of equal access to healthcare for all, regardless of where you live, looks like becoming a reality in the very near future.