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Tuesday, 11 January, 2005

Telemedicine and Distance Learning After the Tsunami

In the immediate aftermath of the December 26 earthquake and tsunami, relief workers and local governments were able to use satellite communications to coordinate their emergency responses, according to The Space Review. The peoples of the affected areas and, above all, the children who have been so horribly struck, can be helped by the innovative use of existing satellite communication networks. In spite of the heroic efforts of the emergency relief workers and the military men and women of all nations involved, no single force can include all the medical and public health expertise required.

The first nation to deploy telemedicine systems in response to this crisis was not the US, Australia, Japan, or a European state, but India. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has brought three hospitals in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands into their ISRO telemedicine network. These are connected to medical facilities on the subcontinent, whose personnel are trained and equipped to provide specialist services.

India has a long and successful history of using both telemedicine and distance learning to support its national goals. They have not only decided to handle their emergency response themselves, without any outside help, but they have been providing significant assistance to their poorer neighbors.

As the medical infrastructure in Sumatra and Sri Lanka is rebuilt, the role of telemedicine will have to be looked at.
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