Medical Missions for Children partners with Polycom to expand global tele-paediatric care network

Milpitas 09 May 2002Polycom Inc., specialised in the convergence of interactive voice, video, data and Web communications, has signed a partnership with Medical Missions for Children (MMC) to provide video communications equipment, financial aid and technical support to expand the MMC Global Telemedicine and Learning Network. Through the use of the telemedicine network, MMC is elevating the level of paediatric care available to children with severe medical conditions living in medically underserved areas of the United States and foreign countries.

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The MMC Global Telemedicine and Learning Network is made possible through a group of volunteer physicians and hospitals in the United States and partners including the United Nations, the Brody School of Medicine, the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and Polycom. As the newest partner, Polycom will donate its industry-leading ViewStation video communications systems, along with providing financial assistance and technical support and training to MMC for its expanding network.

"The ability to educate physicians regarding new medicines and procedures and to assist in effectively diagnosing and treating patients over great distances through face-to-face interaction and real time data exchange creates a new paradigm for international paediatric medicine", stated Frank Brady, founder and chairman of Medical Missions for Children.

The network allows participating hospitals in developing countries to contact hospitals and medical specialists in the United States for assistance diagnosing and treating children with severe medical conditions. The initial contact is made via e-mail or fax to the MMC Help Desk describing the problem and the help requested. MMC then contacts the appropriate United States children's hospital and arranges for a telemedicine conference.

Polycom's ViewStation delivers the quality and performance of high-end video conferencing systems at an affordable price. Available in a broad product range, including ViewStation FX, VS4000T, ViewStation MP, ViewStation 128, ViewStation SP128 and SP384, and ViewStation H.323, the product sets the standard for high-performance, affordable and easy-to-use interactive video communications.

The American doctors, using video communications with data-sharing technology, see the patient, their test results and medical records in "real time" and are able to consult face to face with the attending doctor even though they may be several thousands of miles away. In addition, the video communications systems are used by equipment technicians to direct repairs of critical medical equipment, which increases the availability of life-saving hospital resources.

Also, MMC organises educational symposiums over video communications to disseminate information more efficiently to physicians in the medically underserved countries about effective new procedures and medicines. MMC's goal is to aid 10.000 seriously ill children directly and 50.000 to 100.000 children indirectly through its Global Telemedicine and Learning Network. MMC hopes to expand its network to twenty underserved countries over the next 18 months.

Countries currently participating in the programme include Bolivia, Panama, Nicaragua, the Republic of Georgia, and Uzbekistan. Currently 15 major United States hospitals participate in the MMC network, including St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, Mount Sinai Medical Center and School of Medicine, and Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

MMC was founded by Mr. Frank Brady in March 1999 to devise a method of screening ill children from distant locals prior to moving them to major medical centres or having doctors travel to treat them as part of medical missions. Over time this objective developed into the MMC Global Telemedicine and Learning Network and MMC has introduced the Network in Latin America.

While telemedicine within the United States has been handicapped by state licensing requirements for physicians and the reluctance of insurance companies to pay for teleconsults, this is now slowly changing. Once such barriers are removed, the MMC Global Telemedicine and Learning Network will be experienced and prepared to assist rural America. It is a vehicle to afford all critically ill children the same access to medical knowledge and expertise regardless of where they live.

In poor nations, children under five years of age bear 30 percent of the total burden of disease. Of the 11 million children under five years of age who die each year, more than 85 percent are from medically underserved countries. This translates to 40.000 children dying each day. In most hospitals in underserved communities the paediatric death rate ranges between 20 percent to 50 percent, compared to just two to four percent in the United States, according to the World Health Organization.


Leslie Versweyveld

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