Two Upbeat Reports on Global Telemedicine

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Telemedicine has recently been featured in two different news outlets, the Economist and Healthcare Matters. This added attention suggests that the public is beginning to wake up to telemedicine’s potential.

According to the Economist: “Telemedicine is more than a Skype chat between doctor and patient, says Michael Young, who works on remote care for the University of North Carolina. The technology can look similar but the need for security and privacy is greater.”

Taking an international perspective, the Economist gives a useful primer on telemedicine’s legal status in the United States, including the patchwork of parity laws. It’s interesting to note that the European Union has a head start on adopting telemedicine: EU-member “countries may not pass laws that would stop doctors practising telemedicine, and doctors need only be licensed in one country to practise in all.” The article also points out that the US is falling behind a few small countries like Israel, whose “health-care system is fully digitized: all doctors use electronic medical records, and patients have access to their data.”

Meanwhile, Healthcare Matters features a report that says the global market for telehealth services at home is “surging” at a 24 percent annual rate of growth. “The telehome category,” they write, “the largest and fastest growing segment of the market, is forecast to jump from just $6.5 billion in 2013 to nearly $24 billion in 2019.”

These are strong forecasts, and even more good news for the future of telemedicine around the world.

Safer and Fewer Abortions with Telemedicine

telemedicine abortion

Telemedicine abortion has been a hot topic recently with Planned Parenthood losing a “telemedicine abortion” ban suit against Iowa.

Alana Semuels has explored the issue further in the Atlantic online, showing how telemedicine could impact women’s access to safe abortion.

Writes Semuels, “there is one procedure that, though it could be easily, safely, and cheaply administered via telemedicine, is widely unavailable: the termination of a pregnancy.”

Surprisingly, despite the greater convenience of telemedicine, “abortions did not increase in Iowa after telemedicine was introduced; instead, they decreased, part of a national trend in which abortions are decreasing.”

It will take changes to the laws of several states before most Americans have full access to telemedicine. There’s much more to this complex topic. Read the full article.

photo courtesy: Tony Leys via The Register

VSee Celebrates OneClick with iFly

Telemedicine is very hot right now, and vsee OneClick virtual waiting room is the perfect product :)  The VSee team took half a day off to chill with some indoor skydiving. Have a look at our team having fun!

Becky Best pic milton - the flying frog Sam Willow


NSA Hacked UN Videoconferencing System According to New Snowden Documents

united nationsWhether it’s your typical Skype video chat or a secured United Nations videoconference, video communications are getting hacked.  German news magazine Der Spiegel reports that the latest documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden shows that the NSA broke the code for the United Nations internal videoconferencing system at its New York headquarters during the summer of 2012. Within 3 weeks of the breakthrough, the number of intercepted video calls rose from 12 to 458.  Under international treaties, spying on the United Nations is illegal.  However, the NSA isn’t the only one who’s been doing it. According to the documents the Chinese had previously also made attempts to hack the system.

A GigaOm post also notes that the NSA tapped the EU embassy in the U.S. and regularly monitors over 80 consulates around the world, which is discussed more at length in an English version article from Der Spiegel.

Microsoft Skype Cooperated with NSA Surveillance Program From the Beginning

A few months earlier, The Guardian published excerpts from more Edward Snowden documents which revealed that Microsoft Skype participated in the NSA PRISM surveillance program. In the past, there have been allegations of Skype keeping decryption keys (which allows them to give others access to your information) and other security weakness concerns. These papers clearly show that Skype’s design did and still does allow for secret surveillance.  Indeed, Skype began its integration into the PRISM government surveillance program months before its acquisition by Microsoft. Moreover, the NSA and FBI have been able to mine Skype user data since February 6, 2011, the day right after Skype’s acquisition. Commentary from the NSA documents note:

“Feedback indicated that a collected Skype call was very clear and the metadata looked complete…. Collaborative teamwork [between NSA teams and the FBI] was the key to the successful addition of another provider to the Prism system.”

Source: The Guardian – Microsoft Hands NSA Access to Encrypted Messages

In 2012, NSA observed a 248% increase in Skype data collection with another note from the documents commenting, “exponential growth in Skype reporting; looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype.” Since the acquisition NSA has gained even more ability to gather Skype data. According to a Guardian article:

One document boasts that Prism monitoring of Skype video production has roughly tripled since a new capability was added on 14 July 2012. “The audio portions of these sessions have been processed correctly all along, but without the accompanying video. Now, analysts will have the complete ‘picture’,” it says.

Despite the leaked documents, Microsoft denies knowledge of the Prism program, asserting Skype’s privacy policy: “Skype is committed to respecting your privacy and the confidentiality of your personal data, traffic data and communications content.”

Would you trust Skype for private communications?

VSee in Gabon – Albert Schweitzer Hospital 100 Years Legacy

VSee telemedicine kit in Gabon jungleEric has had a crazy and amazing week bringing the VSee telemedicine suitcase into the jungles of Gabon. He has been setting up VSee satellite calls to bring Harvard doctors and Albert Schweitzer Hospital doctors face to face virtually for telehealth consultations.  And he has been training medical staff to use the VSee telemedicine kit. He also had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a Lambaréné, Gabon (where the hospital is located) as it celebrates the hospital’s 100 year anniversary to honor the legacy of Nobel Laureate, Albert Schweitzer and and inaugurates the new Centre Hospitalier Universitaire International Albert Schweitzer à Lambaréné. The Albert Schweitzer Centennial even brought the President of Gabon out to Lambaréné just for the occasion!

VSee telemedicine village checkVSee remote ultrasound village visitVSee telemedicine kit provides remote ultrasound on a village visit.

VSee to connect Harvard to HASVSee satellite call for a video telemedicine consultation between Dr. Jean-Daniel at the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Gabon and Dr. Sarosh Rana at Harvard’s Beth Israel in Boston.

Schweitzer hospital waits for Gabon presidentpresident of Gabon visits hospitalLambaréné celebrates Albert Schweitzer CentennialAlbert Schweitzer Centennial drummingAlbert Schweitzer Centennial dancer

President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba waving

There goes the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, waving!

Schweitzer med students watch gala

Albert Schweitzer Hospital med students watching the Centennial Symposium celebrations streaming live from the capital city of Libreville via satellite.

Check out what the rest of the VSee team has been doing in Africa.

See our photo journals from VSee’s last visit to Gabon and the Albert Schweitzer Hospital.