Virtual Health Room Provides Care in Rural Areas
A virtual health room is a cost-effective solution for providing basic healthcare to patients in low-dense rural areas. The concept is launched by Nordic Health Innovation, a company with 20 years experience of telemedicine and eHealth, situated in Storuman deep within the County of Västerbotten.
A virtual health room (VHR) is a tailor-made, unstaffed, health room, accessible 24 hours a day for patients in rural areas. Physicians and other medical personnel can, if needed, be connected via video link and the room is equipped with a number of medical devices. In a VHR it's possible to check blood pressure and to make blood tests, blood glucose tests and Coumadin tests. Via a central server the devices will be linked to the medical records at the regional healthcare provider.
The rooms are staffed by medical personnel at certain times, but people who are confident in conducting the tests themselves can use the rooms unstaffed.
The VHR is launched by Nordic Health Innovation, a company with 20 years experience of telemedicine and eHealth developed in an extremely low-dense population area and in close collaboration with the Centre for Rural Medicine, a small R&D unit within the County Council of Västerbotten.
”In rural areas with long distances between points of care, the travel budget for a primary healthcare unit can be almost as big as the cost for the care provided. Using VHR is a way of offering high quality at reduced costs. If one of ten visits to a primary healthcare unit were being conducted virtually, SEK 1.2 billion could be saved by the county councils of Sweden every year,” says Jonas Berggren, CEO of Nordic Health Innovation.
20 VHRs Within Two Years
So far, three VHRs have been established in Västerbotten and Jämtland and the concept has been well-received and worked out fine. The patients feel that they get more alternatives and options and a higher degree of control over their health. They also experience a higher degree of service and convenience.
The greatest challenge has been that the testing equipment isn’t designed for ordinary people. The instructions need to be simple and are often accompanied by short instruction movies.
”We believe in bringing the point of care as close to the patient as possible. For telemedicine to be truly effective it’s necessary to break the county council barrier. In the northern parts of Sweden, there’s a great demand, and need, for changing the way the healthcare sector is working. Within two years, the four northernmost counties of Sweden aim to set up at least 20 VHRs.”
Nordic Health Innovation primarily focuses on developing and offering solutions for the Scandinavian markets. However, the needs of rural areas in other parts of the world are similar and, likewise, demand a cost-effective and distance-spanning healthcare. A low-budget version is currently being developed for use in Indonesia and Kenya. VHR is still an immature line of business, but the potential is huge.
”We’re situated in Storuman, deep within the County of Västerbotten. This extremely low-dense population area is an ideal testbed for a global market, 25 years ahead of the rest of the world,” Jonas Berggren concludes.