JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Come either October or November of this year, the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus is all set to offer a telemedicine certification programme for persons working in the country's health and allied sectors.
  • It is expected that 2,000 persons will register for this newly introduced course of study, and according to Dr. Winston Davidson, Head of the Telemedicine Research and Development Unit based at UWI.
  • Dr. Davidson tells JIS News that the telemedicine certification programme is intended to target the wide gamut of people employed in the Jamaican health community, ranging from doctors and nurses to pharmacists and medical technologists, further noting that the programme also seeks to include practitioners of alternative medicine and community health aides as well.

Come either October or November of this year, the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus is all set to offer a telemedicine certification programme for persons working in the country’s health and allied sectors.

It is expected that 2,000 persons will register for this newly introduced course of study, and according to Dr. Winston Davidson, Head of the Telemedicine Research and Development Unit based at UWI, the certification will “give the particular health personnel a greater capacity to manage his or her health information because it is providing them with skills.”

Dr. Davidson tells JIS News that the telemedicine certification programme is intended to target the wide gamut of people employed in the Jamaican health community, ranging from doctors and nurses to pharmacists and medical technologists, further noting that the programme also seeks to include practitioners of alternative medicine and community health aides as well.

Telemedicine, the doctor explains, means medicine at a distance. He says to his knowledge, the certification programme is the first of its kind in Latin America and the Caribbean, and creates the ideal opportunity to provide Jamaicans with the base of utilising technology in the medical field. The programme, he notes, “has been created at three levels: basic, intermediate, and advanced.”

He points out that the telemedicine programme is meant to complement the telemedicine network platform known as The Caribbean Model, an integrated technological system, which he designed over the course of several years. The Model employs the use of a variety of technologies including the telephone, an electronic medical record system which patients will be able to access, and multi-media computer capabilities such as media clips and video-conferencing.

“This training programme,” Dr. Davidson declares, “is wholly designed by us, there is no other training like this in the world but this training programme is part of the conceptual framework of our Caribbean Model.”
With the certification programme a mere three or four months away from beginning, the doctor says three agencies are competing to fund the programme.

As it relates to the implementation of the modules to be taught to the students who register, he says: “We at the University have a long term strategic relationship with Infoserv Institute of Technology. Infoserv is a part of the programme and therefore will be the implementation arm.” Outlining the course content of the three-level telemedicine certification programme, Dr. Davidson observes, “there are 22 modules in the curriculum and two optional modules.”

Starting with the basic level, he explains that “the modules have to do with first getting a vision or concept of telemedicine and tele-health, then understanding the Caribbean Model in terms of how all the platforms have been integrated. Then the first thing we look at is the telephone, which is the only ubiquitous technology. We are not dealing with the telephone in terms of the use of the ordinary telephone but we are dealing with Internet Protocol telephony, because it is this, which is going to give the doctor the global reach. Then we are looking at medical emergencies and how you use telephony in such instances as well as non-emergency medicals. Then we are going to look at the application or practice of telephony skills and in utilising these skills, the participant will also be given information communication technology skills which are universally accepted.”

Speaking further, he says “intermediate certification will move on to the fundamentals of Internet skills and then networking skills and how they are going to relate to others on the network. We are then going to provide web site management skills to see how it will work out cheaper in cutting record keeping costs.”

According to Dr. Davidson, electronic medical system is the way of the future for all kinds of medical practitioners. He points out that in Massachusetts in the United States, hospitals there were able to realise $2.5 billion within a one-year period by using an electronic medical system.

“We are also going to teach multimedia and digital video production through media clips to develop clips for health television.”

“Advanced certification,” he notes, “will look at greater networking skills so that if the health professional wants to multiply himself in a network, he has the skills to do so.then we are going to train them in personal area network and digital assistance so that all these digital devices can be used to exchange communication with the doctor, for example.

We will also provide them with information that details budgeting and cost control, electronic research and development methods, interpersonal relations, and marketing.”

The benefits to persons who choose to pursue the telemedicine certification programme will be tangible, the doctor adds.

“It is retooling him or her to do whatever they wish. He can set up a telemedicine network if he wants, instead of practising from his office alone, we are giving training to set up a remote office and get his personnel trained to monitor those, so he can manage it from his bedroom,” he points out.

He says that with the provision of the telemedicine software that will make the Caribbean Model operational, it creates the conditions to “seamlessly remove obstacles to the patient.”

In terms of registration for the certification programme, Dr. Davidson says: “We want to start off training 2,000 by the end of 2005. Over three years, we wish to train 6,000.by December 2005, we want to have 2,000 capable of going online.”

He advises that having trained persons in telemedicine will be a prerequisite for the delivery of exporting health services, which is a goal that the telemedicine programme is looking to tap into.

Dr. Davidson tells JIS News that there is a distinct possibility that exists that with the telemedicine certification programme, there are spin-offs for Jamaica to aggressively enter the market of health tourism.

“[This] creates the conditions for Jamaica to export services, for example if you look at the home, health tourism component, Jamaica presently has a very strategic window as an outsourcing area for health delivery services in the areas of wellness, health risk reduction, therapies, convalescence, and rehabilitation.”

He says this is so because the cost of health care in Jamaica is “almost 40 times less than the cost in the United States and almost 25 times less than the cost in Europe which means that they can in fact get cheaper health care at very high international standards.”

Continuing, he points out that in light of the fact that the cost of health care in the US was increasing “in terms of cost at a rate of 14 to 17 per cent, there is no reason why they will not outsource the same way that they outsource to India and China for products.”

He says there is a massive niche market for health tourism and as the US health industry is “billions upon billions of dollars, all you want is a small percentage of that.”