I’m traveling to Kampala, Uganda next week to take part in a meeting on HIV prevention so I’m interested in what’s going on there, so I was fascinated by today’s article in New York Newsday (Via Internet, NY doc helps deaf Ugandan man hear):
Through the power of Internet technology, medical experts in New York have switched on an inner-ear device, allowing a man in Uganda to hear for the first time in two years.
Activating the device from halfway around the world is a first, and highlights a trailblazing way in which the growing realm of telemedicine – conducting medical procedures from remote locations – can enhance the lives of people in struggling nations.
David Nuwagaba, 23, of Kampala, Uganda, had to drop out of college after becoming deaf from the toxic effects of tuberculosis medication. But when Dr. J. Thomas Roland, co-director of NYU Medical Center’s cochlear implant center, learned of his plight, he knew he could help.
Roland, who often volunteers in Uganda, was able to implant a cochlear implant at the hospital in Kampala. But after the implant the next step is to activate each of 22 electrodes, and that requires a different specialist. In this case Dr. William Shapiro, chief of audiology at NYU Medical Center, was able to perform the activation remotely and now Nuwagaba is doing well.
As exciting as this case is, it’s really just a first step. Both physicians volunteered their time and the device manufacturer donated the implant. The typical all-in cost is about $40,000, so you won’t see this scene being repeated in Uganda every day.
Still, it may not be too long before robotic surgery techniques allow surgeons hundreds or thousands of miles away to perform operations. That should lower costs and broaden access and add another dimension to medical tourism. Imagine doctors in India operating on a patient in New York!