HEALTH VOLUNTEERS OVERSEAS: Timing, creativity and technology

Dr. Khun Sunly & Dr. Richard Wise / Health Volunteers Overseas
Timing, creativity and technology

Timing can be everything! Who would have thought that a project conceived in 2019 would be so important and beneficial during the pandemic? Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital (SKMH) in Kampot, Cambodia was identified as a pilot site for a new HVO partnership with World Telehealth Initiative (WTI), a non-profit organization that utilizes telehealth technology to bring sustainable medical expertise to low-resource communities globally.

When COVID-19 struck, SKMH contacted HVO for training in emergency medicine. Volunteers and learners had access to a small laptop and projected the lectures onto a screen. This posed a significant challenge as the microphone and speakers were attached to the laptop, making it difficult for learners to hear the lectures and for volunteers to hear questions. Additionally, volunteers were unable to see participants unless they were sitting directly in front of the computer. The solution to these challenges – a telehealth device.

The WTI telehealth device has given a whole new dynamic to learning! Dr. Richard Wise was the first HVO volunteer to lecture using the device with students in Cambodia. He stated, “The robot allowed me to see the audience more easily. They could also see me as if I was in the front of the room, instead of being on a small laptop.” After his call Dr. Wise shared that he felt guilty being ‘in the room’ but not wearing a mask, as all the participants onsite were. He concluded “I guess social distancing from about 8000 miles should be enough.”

Dr. Wise is not only using the device to give lectures, but he has also been able to assist in other innovative ways. A day after giving a lecture on hypokalemia (low potassium levels) while using the robot, he received a phone call from the Chief of Emergency Medicine at SKMH, Dr. Sunly Khun, who was in the emergency room with a patient who had symptoms of hypokalemia. Dr. Wise was able to assist in the case utilizing the telehealth device. It was taken to the patient’s bedside where a 180-degree rotation gave him the ability to see the patient’s vital signs and the physical exam that Dr. Khun was giving the patient. Since the device was controlled by Dr. Wise, Dr. Khun had the use of both his hands for the patient exam, a definite plus!

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