How NASA’s experience can promote healthcare for all on Earth (too)

do-patients-trust-telemedicine-01One of the principles of Jugaad innovation is to include the margin. This means enabling people living in remote areas with the same (or almost the same) tools as in the more advanced countries.

A smart way to apply this principle is telemedicine. Specific medical instruments are already been designed to connect the patient in a village or far-flung area to the physician in town, who can remotely check the patient and diagnose diseases in real time, reducing costs and still giving proper assistance.

An article published on the Harvard Business Review brilliantly explains how telemedicine is used to remotely assist astronauts who spend months in the space and might experience the need for medical care.

Four times each year, a new team of astronauts and cosmonauts is launched to the International Space Station (ISS), where they will stay for six months to one year, performing engineering tasks, research, maintenance, and upgrades to prepare for future commercial vehicles. During this amount of time, access to medical care is crucial, as altered routines and microgravity have deconditioning effects on crew members’ bone and muscle, fluid distribution, and immune function.

Telemedicine is a key component of medical care on ISS. While doctors have always communicated with the crews of short missions, largely to guide them through acute spaceflight-specific health issues, today’s long-duration and exploration missions require space medicine to fulfil a much wider-ranging mandate and extend beyond minor illness and urgent care. Telemedicine enables preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic care during many months in space, and ideally allows for seamless continuity of care before and after missions.

NASA’s experience with telemedicine can be applied not only to remote environments like Antarctica but also to areas currently underserved by medicine, from rural areas in the United States to developing countries. As technology and the Internet become more accessible, telemedicine will increasingly connect health care providers to underserved areas. Since specialists concentrate in larger cities, this technology infrastructure, combined with telemedicine best practices, will improve disparities in health care.

However, including the margin is not just a principle of Jugaad Innovation. It is also a way to comply with the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in order to guarantee equal access to healthcare, education, clean energy, water, food and shelter for everyone.

Empowering as many people as possible (aiming at 100% of the population globally) with the basic needs of any human being is a way of utterly promoting sustainability at all levels.

No wonder the jugaad revolution can spread from that.

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