Landlocked Laos, one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, is getting help from Japan's Fujitsu Ltd. to improve medical services in rural areas.
The IT company will set up a remote medical care system that provides an online connection between a hospital in Vientiane, the Laotian capital, and infirmaries in provincial towns.
By allowing diagnostic data to be shared and enabling online conferences, the information technology giant hopes to help narrow the gap in the levels of expertise of medical practitioners between the capital and the countryside.
The system is due to start from mid-December. It will connect a central hospital in Vientiane with hospitals in the two provincial towns--Nambak and Savannakhet--which are both 200 kilometers from the capital.
Dedicated personal computers and other equipment, installed in each of the provincial hospitals, will be connected to a server in the central hospital and allow medical practitioners in the countryside to access databases of clinical cases and medical care any time they wish to do so.
Online conference capabilities will also allow expert physicians and surgeons in the capital to advise or coach less experienced medical practitioners in the countryside. In the case of a broken bone, for example, the online system will allow doctors at the central hospital to share image data with their colleagues in the countryside and give them diagnostic instructions, Fujitsu officials said.
Laos has a population of 6.4 million and a landmass the size of Japan's Honshu island. Most of the country's physicians and surgeons with advanced medical technologies are concentrated in Vientiane, leaving a wide disparity in expertise levels with the countryside.
The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications carried out a survey in 2007 to create an information technology infrastructure in Laos. The survey motivated the Laotian government and other parties to prepare to build a system for remote medical care. Fujitsu won a contract for that project.
Fujitsu hopes to expand the system to involve other regional hub hospitals in provincial Laotian cities and also to commercialize similar programs for marketing in other emerging nations.
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