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Seven years of telemedicine in Médecins Sans Frontières demonstrate that offering direct specialist expertise in the frontline brings clinical and educational value.

Seven years of telemedicine in Médecins Sans Frontières demonstrate that offering direct specialist expertise in the frontline brings clinical and educational value.

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Seven years of telemedicine in Médecins Sans Frontières demonstrate that offering direct specialist expertise in the frontline brings clinical and educational value.

J Glob Health. 2018 Dec;8(2):020414

Authors: Delaigue S, Bonnardot L, Steichen O, Garcia DM, Venugopal R, Saint-Sauveur JF, Wootton R

Abstract
Background: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a medical humanitarian organization, began using store-and-forward telemedicine in 2010. The aim of the present study was to describe the experience of developing a telemedicine service in low-resource settings.
Methods: We studied the MSF telemedicine service during the period from 1st July 2010 until 30th June 2017. There were three consecutive phases in the development of the service, which we compared. We also examined the results of a quality assurance program which began in 2013.
Results: During the study period, a total of 5646 telemedicine cases were submitted. The workload increased steadily, and the median referral rate rose from 2 to 18 cases per week. The number of hospitals submitting cases and the number of cases per hospital also increased, as did the case complexity. Despite the increased workload, the allocation time reduced from 0.9 to 0.2 hours, and the median time to answer a case decreased from 20 to 5 hours. The quality assurance scores were stable. User feedback was generally positive and more than 90% of referrers who provided a progress report about their case stated that it had been sent to an appropriate specialist, that the response was sufficiently quick and that the teleconsultation provided an educational benefit. Referrers noted a positive impact of the system on patient outcome in 39% of cases.
Conclusions: The quality of the telemedicine service was maintained despite rising caseloads. The study showed that offering direct specialist expertise in low-resource settings improved the management of patients and provided additional educational value to the field physicians, thus bringing further benefits to other patients.

PMID: 30574293 [PubMed - in process]

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