This paper will focus primarily on the potential for a cross-border telemedicine network between the U.S. and Mexico. It will also touch briefly on some of the barriers in addition to summarizing a few existing international telemedicine programs to see if and how they have overcome some of these barriers. Research suggests that Mexico has at least one existing national telemedicine program that shows potential for successful collaboration. Additionally, first-class hospitals like Hospital Cima Hermosillo are already providing services to both Mexican and U.S. patients and is another potential networking partner. AN INTRODUCTION TO TELEMEDICINE
Many believe that access to affordable and quality health care is a service that should be available to everybody. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many countries including the U.S. and Mexico. Currently, the cost of U.S. healthcare is more expensive than many other developed countries at about $4,887 per person in 2001 (McLean, 2006). The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice calculate that the use of telemedicine could lower the cost of medical services by stimulating price competition (McLean, 2006). In Mexico, healthcare access is one of the largest issues. In rural areas indigenous communities have an infant mortality rate that is “58 percent higher and a life expectancy five years lower than the national average and ten years lower than in Mexico City or Monterrey, the largest urban centers” (Barraza-Lloréns, 2002). All of these are issues, both in Mexico and the U.S., have led to innovation and a of variety potential solutions. Recently, the implementation of telemedicine is one of the cutting edge technologies that has surged to the forefront as a viable solution for solving cost, location, and many other issues.
Existing telemedicine applications range from radiology to surgery to psychiatry to cardiology. The commonality between these applications is the combined use of electronic communication and information technology to enable transfers and interactivity of Internet-based healthcare delivery (gtz). Currently, there are two ways telemedicine can be delivered. The first uses a store and forward system, which stores images taken at one location and then sends them to another location, much like email. This type of system is often used for teleradiology or teledermatology. The second type of system uses real-time communication between physicians. This real-time interaction can take place via phone or video.
Effective implementation of telemedicine includes many benefits from cost savings, to improved patient care, to more efficient distribution of doctors’ expertise. Using telemedicine creates a virtual network that has no geographic barriers. For example, in Nogales, Arizona, at the Mariposa Clinic doctors and patients regularly participate in teleconsultations with doctors in Tucson, Arizona. Furthermore, current technological innovations and the rapid growth of worldwide-internet access creates a unique opportunity to utilize distributed resources more effectively. For example, it is now possible for one doctor to serve multiple locations simultaneously which allows him to manage his workload so that he does not have as slack time between patients. In addition to capitalizing the use of the doctor’s time, this telemedicine can help decrease the costs of hospitals that are often required to have access to a radiologist 24 hours a day 7 days a week regardless of patient load. POTENTIAL FOR CROSS-BORDER EXPANSION BETWEEN U.S. AND MEXICO An area of opportunity for the first cross-border telemedicine program would be between the United States and Mexico. An international telemedicine network with Mexico could potentially provide a solution to several challenges facing the current U.S. and Mexico healthcare systems. Furthermore, because Mexico already has close relations with the U.S. it would...