Cardiologists from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan recently attended a regional conference alongside their colleagues at the National Center of Cardiology and Internal Medicine in Kyrgyzstan. Nothing out of the ordinary you might think; however, this event was different. This time, the participants - there to discuss 'Mirrahimov Reading' on modern aspects of cardiology and internal medicine - did not have to travel the usual long distances and use up valuable clinical time. For the first time, the cardiologists were able to take part remotely from the comfort of their hospital offices, thanks to high-quality video links that have just become available over the recently upgraded Central Asia Research and Education Network, known as CAREN.
Co-funded by the European Union, CAREN provides high-performance broadband internet for research and education, facilitating communication, information exchange, and collaboration between universities, teaching hospitals, and research centers within Central Asia. CAREN also provides access to the European and global research community through interconnection to GÉANT, its European counterpart.
Until now there had simply not been enough bandwidth within Central Asia to allow such a specialist conference to be conducted via the internet. While the use of 'telemedicine' is already becoming common in other regions, Central Asia had been lagging in this field.
"As well as reducing unnecessary costs and travel times, reliable video conferencing is allowing hospitals to create networks to provide each other with support and consults. By easily sharing our expertise and best practice outside our own institutions, doctors can offer incredible value to their medical colleagues and those colleagues' patients," says Ainagul Jumagulova, director of the National Center of Cardiology and Internal Medicine in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Telemedicine sessions can help to address resourcing difficulties at hospitals in regional and remote areas where doctors may lack the specialized skills to treat patients with particular conditions. Supplementing traditional care with a telemedicine scheme also offers doctors a new way to interact and learn from one another. Follow-up telemedicine sessions are scheduled and discussions are underway to extend the program beyond cardiology, as well as to doctor-patient 'teleconsultations'.
All this has been made possible by the upgrade of the CAREN network, which has seen link capacities increase ten-fold since the start of the project in 2010, despite the continuing challenges of the telecommunications markets within Central Asia.
"The network upgrade marks an important step towards upgrading the ancient Silk Road to a 21st-century high-speed internet highway for research and education across the region and significantly improves connectivity between Central Asia and Europe and other parts of the world," says David West, CAREN project manager at DANTE.
This article has been edited from a news release published by the CAREN project. Read the original, longer version of this article here.
- Helga Spitaler, senior communications officer at DANTE, UK.