Prem Bahadur Pun is a senior surgeon at the Om Hospital in Pokhara. But he is originally from Nangi, and is often on the internet with the health post in his home village advising the health workers there about how to treat patients.
Working through a webcam, Pun can examine a patient who is in a room two day's walk away. For roadless areas of Nepal where people have poor health services, telemedicine may be the most effective way to save lives.
"Look at me, sitting here in Pokhara, I am able to ensure good treatment to people who live in my native village," Pun told Nepali Times this week.
He is part of a wireless network established in 20 villages in Myagdi, Kaski and Parbat districts by Nepal Wireless Network Project, a brainchild of Mahabir Pun who has tried to use better internet connectivity to improve service delivery in health and education. Prem Bahadur Pun says telemedicine saves lives because many patients can't be moved and local health workers at times lack medical knowledge to deal with complicated illnesses.
The project is now expanding to Makwanpur, Palpa and Dolakha. Doctors at the Model Hospital in Kathmandu regularly consult patients and health workers at the Gaurishankhar Hospital in Dolakha via webcam.
As a surgeon, Pun speaks with community health workers about their patients over the internet, and sometimes directly to the patients themselves. He is on-call most of the day in Pokhara via in both his office and on mobile phone. The most common ailments are fractures, fall injuries, dental problems and diarrhoea dehydration in children. If patients need x-rays or operations, Pun advises them to come down to Pokhara.
The wireless internet is also helping schools in the three districts. Assistant principal of the Himalaya Secondary School in Tolka, Ananta Subedi says: "From the internet I am able to provide my students free supplementary study materials." although new technologies can help deliver educationa nd health, it will have to be the government that will need to replicate this nationwide with public-private partnerships.
Thomas Grotkjaer Nielsen in Kaski