Low-Cost Telecommunication Systems and Information Services for Rural Primary Healthcare in Developing Countries
More than half of the world population lives in isolated rural areas out of the scope of any terrestrial telecommunication networks. This is particularly true in developing countries, where rural areas very often lack of any access to the public telephone network or even to electricity. Low density and low concentration of population make difficult to afford the installation of permanent infrastructures that would be expensive due to typical restrictions in power service, accessibility, maintainability and security. In EHAS - "Enlace Hispano Americano de Salud", which means in English "Hispano-American Health Link" - we are very concerned about these scenarios, and specifically we are focused on the Health Area. We develop telemedicine low-cost telecommunication systems and information services specially designed for rural primary healthcare personnel from isolated areas in Latin American countries. The EHAS program researches and develops appropriated information and communication technologies, deploys developed services and systems through pilot projects and evaluates their impact. This paper examines the results of each line of work, with emphasis on some of the pilot schemes deployed in rural areas of both jungle and mountain sites. Some of the conclusions gathered at the end of the paper show that our systems give great benefits such as a drastic reduction in the average evacuation time of critical patients, improvement of diagnostics' reliability, and decrease of travels needed by the staff.