timely information

by Anjali Sastry on January 13, 2010

Our colleagues at the Global Health Delivery Project aim to systematize the study of health care delivery, to disseminate new learning to practitioners, and to improve health outcomes in resource-limited settings.  G-Lab GHD was designed to respond this call by building new modes of collaboration to address the practical challenges of health care delivery, drawing on the best that MIT has to offer. Now that this year’s teams are far afield–in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda–I’m reminded every day of the importance of the technology part of MIT’s identity. How can I stay in touch with my students, and build and develop our relationships with partners, without the technology that enables us to stay in touch? Luckily, 777s aside, we have email, facebook, phones, and skype.

This has me thinking about the importance of communications and information technology for global health delivery. We’re seeing a great blossoming of work on devices and technologies for health care in the field. Read about MIT’s efforts in this area via D-Lab Health and via the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, a Boston-based non-profit consortium of teaching hospitals and engineering schools–take a look at CIMIT’s visionary work in global health; and another local leader in the field is Dimagi, a company founded by MIT alumns.

Can even more technology make it to the field and improve access to healthcare?  At Rice University, students are working on “a lab in a backpack” and within G-Lab GHD we have a team working in South Africa with Click Diagnostics, a startup using cell-phone based technologies that got going here at MIT’s Development Ventures class.  But back to what the Global Health Delivery Project teaches us: access to timely information is, their experience reveals, perhaps one of the greatest needs for health practitioners in the field. Read GHD Executive Director Dr. Rebecca Weintraub’s recent blog post on the topic, “Life-Saving Health Information: A Global Necessity.” A big part of what needs to be done is simply getting information to people–information that is easily available to doctors here is simply impossible to get in some resource-constrained settings.

To that end, Dr. Weintraub discusses an innovative initiative that partners the GHD Project with UpToDate, a leading clinical information resource and decision-support tool, to offer an opportunity for clinicians and organizations providing medical services to underserved populations outside the U.S. to receive one-year subscriptions. If your organization does not currently have access to such a tool–knowing how important it is for providers to have reliable, up-to-date clinical information and consult services to support diagnosis, care, and education of patients–do review the application directions on GHDonline. And apply or encourage your collaborators to!

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