Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Telemedicine = Borderless Philanthropy

Beyond the allure of the latest mobile devices and nearly life-like videoconferencing, to me the most exciting aspect of telemedicine is its potential to break philanthropic and humanitarian barriers over the next decade. The opportunities here are game-changing and may soon actually be life-changing. With all the best healthcare resources – physicians, equipment, facilities, medication – heavily concentrated in the most developed countries, and the world’s neediest populations located so far away, using new technologies to bridge the gap can truly solve medical crisis’ around the globe.

For decades, medical relief nonprofits have rescued and cared for people in crisis-stricken communities, facing the horrors of natural disasters, malnutrition and disease epidemics. Doctors Without Borders /Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), one of the world leaders, empowers nearly 27,000 aid workers each day, organized into teams to provide care internationally. Astonishingly, they’ve conducted up to 9 million outpatient consultations in a given year! Certainly other leading NGO’s, like the American Red Cross and UNICEF, have improved the lives of millions in developing countries by bringing healthcare and relief where none existed. Can you imagine the exponential impact this same nonprofit community will have once it starts employing telemedicine technology on a wide-scale? We could literally multiply this number of underserved people being treated around the world. Quite an idea.

Well there is one such nonprofit blazing a trail in this endeavor, and is being led by an unlikely pioneer. Hollywood and music icon Jennifer Lopez (yes, J. Lo!) recently teamed up with her sister Lynda to launch the The Maribel Foundation. Maribel is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of women and children in under-privileged areas all around the world…and doing this through the innovative power of telemedicine. Lopez explains, “Our organization will focus on the health and well-being of women and children, adopting a strategy that will achieve maximum impact in the area of children's health worldwide, through our commitment to telemedicine. Telemedicine is a remarkable new healthcare delivery system that uses telecommunications technology to remotely treat patients.” Maribel will build telemedicine clinics all over the world to provide patients access to care from physicians at one of America's top pediatric hospitals: the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

While this is only one such effort, it’s a step towards a whole new way for nonprofits to help those most in need. Healthcare philanthropy is now borderless….and will soon be limitless.

~Alex Price

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