Developing e-Health Capabilities in Bhutan


Developing e-Health Capabilities in Bhutan

01 June 2014
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Bhutan’s steep mountains, deep valleys, and its people’s scattered settlements pose serious challenges to health care service delivery. Medical facilities are generally more than an hour’s walk away from the nearest village, and the capital of Thimpu, where more extensive health services can be found, could be more than 20 hours away for many residents, particularly those from the east. In addition, the country has a limited healthcare workforce. Their health care professional to people ratio, 12 per 10,000 people, is way lower than the World Health’s Organization’s standard of 23 per 10,000 people.

To address these intertwined issues, Bhutan launched e-Health in 2000. E-Health makes use of the internet and other related telecommunication technologies for efficient communication and delivery of health services. However, this strategy was inadequate since internet connectivity is constrained by the country’s peaks and thick foliage.

This publication shows how Bhutan, through a partnership with the Asian Development Bank and Hewlett Packard, refined its old strategy in order to reach more patients in remote, rural areas. It highlights how Bhutan tapped television white space (TVWS) technology to augment the internet connectivity gap in the remote village of Tang in the Bumthang District. This free, underutilized technology has frequency signals that work well with difficult terrain and can penetrate thick shrubbery. Through TVWS, Bhutan connected a small, remote rural health center to a district hospital, enabling patients to consult with health care professionals, resulting in faster diagnosis and treatment.

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