The Arctic is the hallmark region where informatics and telehealth is needed.
Telehealth has made great strides here due to the nature of the cooperative relationship of many of the circumpolar nations.
Accessing healthcare is a challenge for Arctic residents when compared to the general populations of the eight nations making up this polar region. These far northern residents face physical difficulties, which include great distances, severe wind and cold, and extremes in light. These conditions can be demanding on the health of those who travel, and can be harmful to the injured, ill, or infirm.
These remote northern communities face fiscal difficulties, such as limited financial support for staff, equipment, care, and transportation. They also face staffing limitations, in which they have few or no doctors, mid-level practitioners and, in some areas, paraprofessional healthcare providers. Maintaining qualified staff with well-practiced and current skills is a hurdle that health centers must address to provide local residents with access to appropriate care. Remote health-care practitioners, while well trained, are not the specialists encountered in larger facilities.
In order for Arctic communities to provide adequate healthcare to its people, there must be a sustainable means of delivering this care at a distance. Telemedicine has been identified as the use of computers, telecommunication, and medical tools that allow physical parameters to be put into an electronic format.
Although telemedicine is part of the larger telehealth concept, and is dependent on systems of telecommunication, it also involves tele-education and other distance delivery systems. The services that are needed and are being delivered at a distance are defining these remote Arctic cities and villages as the “tele-community.”
The National Library of Medicine is one institution that maintains a good portal with many resources to explore some of the benefits of informatics and telehealth for circumpolar health.
Are you interested to hear more?
Karen Perdue (karen.perdue [@] alaska.edu)
Carl Hild (ancmh [@] uaa.alaska.edu)