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  • Jamaica is set to host the inaugural Caribbean Telemedicine Symposium and Exhibition, which is slated to take place at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, beginning this Thursday, July 22 through to Sunday, July 25 under the theme, Telemedicine - Enhancing Access to Medical Care Through Technology.
  • The symposium and exhibition are expected to explore, among a number of issues, the establishment of a national telemedicine service information technology network with the objective of delivering critical health services quickly, conveniently and at affordable costs.
  • The symposium is the brainchild of Dr. Winston Davidson, Honorary Research Fellow in UWI's School for Graduate Studies and Research.

Jamaica is set to host the inaugural Caribbean Telemedicine Symposium and Exhibition, which is slated to take place at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, beginning this Thursday, July 22 through to Sunday, July 25 under the theme, “Telemedicine – Enhancing Access to Medical Care Through Technology”.

The symposium and exhibition are expected to explore, among a number of issues, the establishment of a national telemedicine service information technology network with the objective of delivering critical health services quickly, conveniently and at affordable costs.

The symposium is the brainchild of Dr. Winston Davidson, Honorary Research Fellow in UWI’s School for Graduate Studies and Research.

Speaking at the press launch for the upcoming three-day event that was held on Monday (July 19) at the offices of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Dr. Davidson cited the hosting of the telemedicine symposium “as another milestone in the whole development of the health sector in general and the use of technology to enhance the capacity of individuals, groups, and the population at large.”

Dr. Davidson said telemedicine essentially meant “medicine at a distance” and further noted that telemedicine “created the conditions for greater access of the Jamaican people to health care, and greater capacity for each person to take charge of his or her health condition.”

Turning to the issue of the intrinsic union between technology and medicine, he told the media the association had always existed.

“Medicine cannot do without technology,” Dr. Davidson said, “and technology is an integral part of our medical care.”

“Information technology, however, has over the past few years been gradually taking the forefront in terms of the management of health care not in the United States but throughout the world,” he added.

He posited that in the very near future, qualitative leaps in the use of technology were most certain to be made, not only by doctors and health personnel but also by the average Jamaican.

Against this background, Dr. Davidson said: “Jamaica is poised to become one of the leading countries in terms of the export of health services because when you look at the fundamentals, such as the cost to deliver health care in Jamaica, we see where we have a cost advantage that facilitates the export of health services.”

Citing statistics culled from research, he said whereas it costs the United States and Europe, $4,200 and $2,600 per capita respectively for their health care expenses on their populations, the Jamaican government was paying a markedly less US$149 per capita.

Jamaica’s low health care costs, he said, therefore created the ideal environment for the country to maximise its health care earning potential from foreigners.

Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of the School for UWI’s School of Graduate Studies and Research, Dr. Errol Morrison also addressed the media at the press launch.

He indicated his pleasure that the School of Graduate Studies was closely aligned with the symposium.

Dr. Morrison said: “It is part and parcel of the University’s outreach to begin to bear more relevance and involve itself in the excellence that is there without the walls of the university.”

According to the Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean, the symposium presented the opportunity to secure support for technology in medical care in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region.

As such, he pointed out that “the School was well placed to assist this thrust and we shall be offering the network and platform through which Dr. Davidson and his team will develop this product and take it across the region.”

Meanwhile, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Science and Technology, Dr. Arnold Ventura remarked that information and communication technology were both critical elements that served to aid the country “make a leap forward in the health sector.”

Dr. Ventura, who sits on the National Commission on Science and Technology, said the government had committed its support to the symposium.

“It is a clear expression of the government’s intent to ensure that information and communication technology does not remain at the low end of the spectrum but really to take it a higher level where it has tremendous consequences for the health and wellness of the nation and at the same time can be used to promote our tourist industry and export a quality product abroad,” he said.

The Telemedicine Symposium and Exhibition is a collaborative project that sees the involvement of the University of the West Indies, the National Commission on Science and Technology through the Office of the Prime Minister and the Embassy of the United States of America, particularly through US Ambassador to Jamaica, Sue Cobb’s Building Bridges Initiative, which seeks to strengthen linkages between American and Jamaican businesses and government sectors.