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Healthcare services are services delivered by the medical professionals for the prevention and treatment of illness. However, despite the affirmation by the Alma-Ata declaration that access to basic healthcare services is a fundamental human right (Alma-Ata Declaration 1978). More than 32 year ago, the actuality is that many people particularly in the areas with lack of resources are still not having equitable access to basic healthcare services. In addition, the challenges facing the delivery of affordable healthcare services are debatably one of the most essential problems to sustainable global development. The larger percentage of the illness and diseases putting burden on the global community is found in the developing countries because of the prevailing limited resources (McMichael et al. 2005).
Additionally, inadequate access to good healthcare services in developing countries particularly in the rural villages has higher contribution to the increase in death rate amongst the children and the pregnant women. United Nations (2008) report shows that there is higher probability for child born in a developing country to dies within their early age (mostly before age five of their life) than those born in the developed country even though the diseases leading to these deaths are preventable through vaccinations and basic healthcare services. Over 30 000 children die each day from diseases that are preventable, more than 500 000 women die during childbirth and complications in pregnancy, over 1 million under 5 years old children die of malaria every year, approximately 20 million people have died of HIV/AIDS while over 38 million are living with the disease, 8 million people develop active tuberculosis each year out of which 2 million die of it (UNDP 2003). This paper discusses the above problems and critically considers the role of mobile technology in facilitating the delivery of healthcare services in the developing countries.
Mobile Technology and Healthcare Delivery
The fast growing of mobile communication in the developing countries is serving a vital role in leapfrogging development in providing healthcare services to the citizen. Tens of millions of low-income earner that never had access to a fixed line telephone or computer now use mobile devices as daily tools for communication and data transfer. United Nations (2007) report confirmed that the population of mobile phone users in the developing world is over sixty-four percent (64%). Also, estimates show that every individual in a household in the rural villages in the world will own mobile phones, which create a promising future to the sustainability of mHealth services.
Consequently, with recent wireless mobile technology in the developing countries, mobile healthcare delivers secure high-quality solutions and facilitate better overall patient care and working conditions for healthcare professionals. By minimizing the time healthcare professionals lose in delayed test results, misplaced records, and missed appointments, mobile healthcare technologies maximizes productive working hours and mitigate the effects of ongoing labor shortages (Isterpania et al. 2004). Similarly, mobile healthcare services and applications aids in providing better preventative care and monitoring of chronic conditions (Donner 2004). These in turn lead to a population that is completely healthier and a system that has fewer inefficiencies and lower costs. Thus, mobile healthcare enables rapid response information management, better communications and coverage for patients and the public, and improved care and treatment for all as well as broader benefits to society (Budinger,2003).
In addition, health care professionals could connect to institution's information system from any given location and access patient records. In the same vein, physician's access to basic and vital medical history is being enhanced by mobile technology, resulting to improving the quality of patient care. Mobile devices can be used in healthcare at home, for instance, fighting diabetes through effective monitoring (Isterpania et al. 2004). Comprehensive overview examples of some of these existing wireless telemedicine applications can be access from publications such as (Istepanian and Laxminaryan 2000; Budinger 2003 and Donner 2004). These broader benefits could possibly include improved life expectancy, better management and insights into epidemics and diseases, improved information sharing on treatments and reduced absences from work. Although the benefits of mobile healthcare are clear, processes and systems must be carefully managed to optimize efficiencies (GSMA 2010).
In conclusion, the result of this technological increase is the ability to have access to appropriate information when needed and at the point of care for healthcare workers. Actually, it is of no doubt that mobile and wireless technology is saturating into the healthcare services and surely will continue to do so both through choice and requirement. In addition, it is predicted that the wireless Internet and the latest invention of wireless devices will play a key role in the expansion of mHealth project especially in the developing countries. The influence and prospect of mobile and wireless devices will continue to be accomplished in several divisions of private and public sector services. Furthermore, the implementation of this technology can be considered in mHealth as complimenting value to key process and information systems supporting the healthcare service delivery where ultimately it is the patients that benefit. The demands for a modern health care service and expectations of patients will surely keep increasing its adoption.