According to WHO,Telemedicine isdefined as “The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities”. A telemedicine network is an integrated healthcare network that uses modern telecommunication and information technologies to provide comprehensive healthcare services to a specific group.
In Bangladesh, the inequitable distribution of qualified medical practitioners is the most compelling reason for use of telemedicine. With84% of doctors located in urban areas althoughover 75% of the population live in rural areas, the doctor-to-population ratio is 1:1,500 in urban areas and 1:15,000 in rural areas. The average number of hospital beds available per 1000 population is 0.25, which is higher in urban areas and lower in rural areas. This is the gross inequality in the distribution of healthcare services between the urban and rural areas, and consequently between the rich and the poor.
As doctors are unavailable in rural areas, rural inhabitants often have to depend on “quacks” who are not qualified to diagnose diseases or prescribe medicines.Employing telemedicine is one of the best options for delivery of healthcare services in distant and remote areas. It is also more economical, cost-effective, and sustainable to link remote and rural places with a telecommunications link than to physically send the doctors to these places.