The global telecommunications company MCI WorldCom recently established the first Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) connection to Vietnam. UPLIFT, an international organization that provides humanitarian airlifts to countries and people in need, inaugurated the ISDN link with a live interactive telemedicine session between its partnering hospitals in Vermont and Washington DC, and the participating sites in Hanoi. The demonstration sets the start for a long-term Telemedicine Programme which will link three hospitals in Hanoi and Hanoi Medical College with the University of Vermont (UVM) College of Medicine/Fletcher Allen Health Care as well as the George Washington University Medical Center (GWUMC).
The doctors and students in Vietnam were able to observe open heart surgery, view real time gastro-intestinal endoscopy and ultrasound examinations, and participate in remote physician consultations and patient diagnoses. From the American side, the Canton-Potsdam Hospital, situated in northern New York, was equally taking part in the one-hour session, next to UVM and GWUMC. The donors, media and all other interested parties were invited to attend at the demo sites in Burlington, Washington DC, and Hanoi. Mark Schlansky, chairman of UPLIFT and organizer of the event, regards telemedicine as an excellent tool to leverage both medical education and cooperation between the U.S. and the Vietnamese medical communities.
In the future, other medical schools and health care institutions in the U.S. and Vietnam will be offered an opportunity to join this unique Telemedicine Programme, which is supported by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications in Vietnam. As prime participant of the new initiative, the UVM has a long standing tradition in the use of telemedicine. Already in 1968, Vermont was among the very first U.S. states to explore the potential of providing health care at a distance. Expertise has been built on the application of systems that link physicians and patients across some of the country's most rural and rugged territory. Today, this experience is used to offer intercontinental telemedical support to Vietnam.
The major objectives within the Telemedicine Programme relate to primary health care issues, associated with the treatment of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis. In addition, the participating academic medical centres will help to improve the overall quality of health for the citizens of Vietnam. This includes the modernization of the local medical education. The Vietnamese doctors and medical students will have the chance to participate in leading-edge training curricula and innovative technology implementation. In turn, the American medical students and physicians will be confronted with severe conditions that are not often encountered in the U.S., in order to forge their education and training in the fires of survival experience.
Representatives from UVM and GWUMC will pay a visit to the Hue Medical College in Vietnam to launch a similar medical education programme. The trip will be organized by UPLIFT International. In the long run, the project will be extended to the organization of exchange programmes, which will involve doctors and students from both countries. In this regard, the Telemedicine Programme will form a vital basis, in order to optimize the level of health care delivery to the Vietnamese people.