Survey Study: Reality Check of Internet and Telemedicine Use in Iraqi Hospitals
Thirteen years after the US invasion of Iraq, the healthcare system remains in shambles, due to inherited and emerging problems. A few solutions have been proposed to overcome these problems, and of all the proposed solutions, telemedicine is the one that can potentially overcome the problems of affordability and access. The Iraqi Telemedicine Centre undertook a study to investigate feasibility of applying telemedicine in Baghdad. The study explores hospitals’ Internet services in terms of type, use, and access. Methods: A survey-based study was conducted by field visits and direct interviews with administrative representatives of fourteen randomly selected hospitals in Baghdad, eight of them are governmental and six are nongovernmental for-profit hospitals. Results: 71% (10/14) of the hospitals have access to the Internet via fibre optic cable through a commercial small business package plan. Six of the ten with Internet offer Wi-Fi to their physicians and potentially their patients, and five of these hospitals are nongovernmental for-profit hospitals. Five of the 14 hospitals were using some aspect of telemedicine and six of the hospitals were interested in participating in projects utilising telemedicine. These results are probably generalisable to the rest of Iraq, as the healthcare system and Internet services are the same. In conclusion, despite of all the challenges, telemedicine is feasible in Iraq, especially if it was affordable and the technology can operate on low-bandwidth Internet.
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