Information technology  

Stockholm Challenge award for project linking Cambodian health workers with Harvard Medical School

13 June 2006

Boston, USA and Stockholm, Sweden. Operation Village Health, an Internet-based health consultation program, linking Harvard Medical School physicians to healthcare workers in Cambodia won top honours at the Stockholm Challenge, a global initiative recognizing the benefits of information technology to communities around the world. The Challenge finalists were all honoured at the award celebrations, attended by over 400 guests in the Stockholm City Hall in May.

The project was developed and managed by Partners Telemedicine. Partners Telemedicine, which delivers quality patient care outside of the hospital or doctor’s office, is a division of Partners HealthCare. It is affiliated with Harvard Medical School and was founded by Massachusetts General and Brigham & Women’s Hospitals in Boston.

Operation Village Health enables U.S. physicians affiliated with Harvard Medical School to provide clinical recommendations to Cambodian health workers in remote villages via an email-based system for triage and physician consultation. These online consultations allow isolated healthcare workers to send clinical documents and images to Harvard-affiliated physicians on the other side of the globe. After review, recommendations are returned within hours, enabling a unique educational opportunity for the Cambodian healthcare workers and improved care for the local community.

“Since 2001, over 600 patient visits have been completed through our telemedicine program and we hope to expand into other remote areas, using this program as a model for future cross-cultural, Internet-based healthcare initiatives,” said Paul Heinzelmann, M.D., Project Leader of Operation Village Health at Partners Telemedicine. “We are continuing to expand this program through innovative applications of information and communication technologies, including the development of a digital pen system to enhance the quality of transcription and clinical documents composed by the local healthcare workers.”

Cambodia ranks among the highest in poverty levels, where disparities in healthcare access are great, particularly in rural areas. There is also a severe shortage of healthcare workers and the country is facing a severe health burden.

Partners Telemedicine works with Cambodian physicians at Ratanakiri Referral Hospital in Ban Lung and nurses at the Rovieng Health Center, in cooperation with Sihanouk Hospital Center of Hope.

American Assistance Cambodia has established the infrastructure for Operation Village Health. Through Operation Village Health, the rate of offsite patient referrals and the duration of chronic medical problems among villagers have decreased since the program was established.

About the Stockholm Challenge

The Stockholm Challenge is a non-profit initiative based at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and is sponsored by the City of Stockholm, Ericsson, and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Event sponsors also include Sun Microsystems, the Swedish Program for Information and Communication Technology in Developing Regions (SPIDER), Cisco and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

The Stockholm Challenge is a world forum for IT pioneers from around the world to showcase projects of excellence and demonstrate how information technology can improve living conditions and increase economic growth in all parts of the world. Over 1,100 entries were submitted by projects from over 50 countries for the 2006 challenge.

The Stockholm Challenge jury noted the following about Operation Village Health: "This project is a practical demonstration of cooperation across cultural and political divides, using ICT to improve the health conditions in Cambodia. Medical services often do not reach the people who most need them. Intermediaries, red tape, education difficulties and poverty create barriers. The jury highlights ICT uses at the grassroots to bypass those barriers to good medical services for the people and be rapidly extended to meet the Millennium Development goals in disadvantaged communities throughout the world and Operation Village Health is a fine example of that."

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