By: Yuliya Shcherbinina, UN in Ukraine
Back in 2009, the UNDP office in Belarus launched a pilot telemedicine project which helped pave the road for the engagement of the private sector in telemedical development; an area usually reserved to international agencies and government bodies. Now, a new telemedicine project based on this pilot model has been launched in Ukraine and is making some waves.
The replication of the Belarus telemedicine project was the next step for the main corporate partner of the project in Belarus, MTS, which is also one of the largest mobile phone operators in Ukraine. Although Ukraine is an urban country, more than 16 million citizens live in rural areas and very often do not have access to timely and high-quality medical assistance. The telemedical network is utilized in order to provide inhabitants of regional centers and those from villages with accessible, highly-specialized medical diagnostics which is provided through the immediate online transmission of data.
Explaining the rationale of MTS participation in the project, Viktoria Ruban, Head of the Public relations Department at MTS, noted that the objective of the Mobile Medicine project – to solve problems through the use of the telecommunication technologies – overlaps with the mission of the company. MTS applies cutting-edge technologies which are at the center of the mobile operator’s services. It offers not only mobile communication services but also data transmission based on hard-wire technologies. It enjoys the biggest fiber-optic network among the mobile operators in Ukraine, amounting to 27,000 kilometers all over the country. MTS has thus far invested 1 million Ukrainian Hryvnias (approximately US$130,000) and insists on considering these funds as an investment as opposed to a donation, as Mobile Medicine lays the foundation of a national telemedicine system which has a huge development potential.
It is also hoped that Mobile Medicine project will prompt the government to develop a national strategy of telemedicine development in Ukraine. During the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between the UN, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and the mobile operator MTS Ukraine in October 2009, the Deputy Minister of Health, Vasiliy Lazoryshynets said: “The creation of the national telemedical consultative diagnostic system will allow us to develop telemedicine on the basis of integration with similar systems outside the country. It will also become a substantial incentive for the creation of unitary informative medical space.” He also underlined that the national telemedical system will not only help to provide specialized medical services for people living in rural and/or distant areas, but also improve preventative treatment, decrease the training costs of medical experts, promote knowledge and experience sharing between medical experts, decrease expenses incurred through the use of paper data carriers, and reduce organizations’ consultation charges..
In practical terms, during the first year the Mobile Medicine project will create an experimental telemedical network which will unite four units: the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, the State Center of Telemedicine in Kiev, and telemedicine focal points in Donetsk and Uzhhorod Regional Hospitals. The next level will be to roll out the project through the whole territory of Ukraine at the level of regional hospitals.
The telemedicine project in Ukraine is not a mere replication of the Belarusian experience but a creative, innovative and ambitious endeavor aimed to build up the network of telecommunication medical institutions over the county which will provide Ukrainian citizens living in remote areas with timely and high-quality medical assistance.
It is expected that the new government in Ukraine will continue to support the telemedicine development in Ukraine making “a high quality medicine for all” slogan a reality.
For more information, please contact Yuliya Shcherbinina, Public-Private Partnerships Officer, UN in Ukraine.