For the first time, the Republic of Georgia will be able to offer its patients who are suffering from cardiac disease, a 24-hour a day operating service for medical care, following the inauguration of a telemedicine pilot project. The project, to be partly funded with excess revenues generated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecom exhibitions, will enable a trans-telephonic electrocardiogram for diagnostic and emergency services.
Patients will be able to use a state-of-the-art device that records heartbeats whenever needed and transmit the recordings by telephone to a monitoring centre staffed with cardiologists round-the-clock and located at the Guli Cardiac Clinic in Tbilisi. The Tbilisi project is one of several others which are implemented in selected developing countries as part of the ITU's strategy to use information technology to help health professionals solve some of the most acute health care issues in developing as well as emerging economies, according to Recommendation Nine of the Valetta Action Plan adopted by the ITU in 1998.
Mr. Hamadoun Touré, Director of BDT, the ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau expects the pilot projects to serve as test beds for other developing countries which are interested in using telecommunications to extend and improve the access to health care services for their population. The official ITU statement defends the implementation of pilot projects with a view to helping countries define a telemedicine policy and strategy for an optimized use of the limited health services in developing nations.
The cardiologic service is already the second telemedicine pilot project which has been successfully implemented in Georgia with the assistance of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, as stated by Professor T. Todua, Director-General of the Institute of Radiology and Interventional Diagnostics. The first project was started in September 1998 and involved the connection of the Institute of Radiology in Tbilisi to the Diagnostic Imaging Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland via the Internet in order to acquire medical second opinions.
Professor T. Melia, Director-General of the Cardiac Clinic in Tbilisi stressed that time is of essence in heart attack treatments. By quickly identifying the problem, the patient can be promptly and efficiently treated, thus minimizing hospitalization and associated costs. To his conviction, lives can be saved in many cases. In recent years, the number of heart patients has been steadily increasing and the number of fatalities as a result of cardiac diseases has reached a very high level. Many patients die because of the time lost between the first signs of the attack and the medical assistance provided.
Mr Teimuraz Berishvili, formerly Director-General of Georgia Telecom has been a driving force behind the realization of the project which was officially inaugurated by Dr. Amiran Gamkrelidze, Deputy Minister of Health. In his statement, Dr Gamkrelidze said that the day is not far off when advanced telecommunication technologies, including Internet and interactive TV, will give doctors the convenience of home visits. The project's facilities will also be available to provide related medical care, like blood pressure monitoring, asthma control and foetal monitoring.
Partners in the project include the Tbilisi Cardiac Clinic, Telecommunication Company of Georgia, and the Telemedicine Foundation of Russia. The ITU is a global organization where the public and private sectors co-operate for the development of telecommunications and the harmonization of the national telecommunication policies. It consists of 188 member states and some 500 sectors members representing organizations, and public as well as private companies. In 1997, the ITU Council has agreed to allocate part of the excess revenues, which derive from the ITU Telecom exhibitions, to the application of telecommunication technologies in the fields of health care.