preventable deaths occurred
worldwide in 2015.
– Harvard Medical School Report 2018
Invitation to Physicians and Psychologists
The Global Telehealth Network (GTN) is a nonprofit organization of volunteer health professionals founded on the belief that no one should be denied access to health care due to location or ability to pay. We’re dedicated to providing services for people in places with shortages of health care professionals, including low- and medium-resource countries and medically underserved areas in the United States.
We’re also available to help in disaster areas, in conflict regions, at centers for victims of human trafficking and in the growing number of refugee camps around the world.
By providing telehealth technology for use by volunteer physicians and psychologists along with a network to connect them with patients, we can offer services to people with the greatest need – but the most limited access – to health care.
In many parts of the world, there are not enough doctors to support even the most rudimentary health care services. This is especially true in limited-resource countries, but even in the U.S. many people lack access to adequate health care due to geographic, economic or cultural barriers. Some places have plenty of doctors, but in many others, the demand far exceeds the supply.
The GTN Solution
Many professionals in high-resource countries say they would like to help if they could do so at minimal cost and risk, and without disrupting their practices and personal lives.
Global Telehealth Network makes that possible by letting physicians and psychologists use computers in their own offices or homes to evaluate and treat virtually patients anywhere in the world.
Telehealth (a.k.a. “telemedicine”) can be broadly defined as any advice or care provided at a distance, including text messaging, email, the transmission of photos and x-rays, phone calls or video conferencing.
In the U.S., telehealth has become mainstream, and many large medical groups like Kaiser Permanente offer video visits for their patients. In the majority of states, telehealth visits are reimbursed by insurance plans.
GTN is Unique
While a growing number of hospital systems and nonprofit organizations offer specialty consultations for primary care physicians practicing in medically underserved areas, most provide telehealth services either domestically or internationally, but not both.
Many of these organizations allow physicians to request specialty consultations through an exchange of emails over a 24-48 hour period, and this can be an extremely valuable service.
However, wherever bandwidth is adequate, GTN's physician volunteers use real-time, interactive videoconferencing to assist doctors in medically underserved areas both in the U.S. and internationally whenever their patients’ diagnoses or appropriate treatment plans are in doubt.
GTN is also happy to provide consults for nurses, Community Health Workers and other non-physician health personnel when they encounter patients with complex problems.
We don’t want to discourage professionals from serving with medical missions. In fact, our goal is to provide tools that let them extend their services year-round to the same locations where they travel to serve with periodic missions that are conducted by other NGOs, as well as to other places where people need their help.
Join our global team of dedicated doctors.
GTN’s volunteer physicians and psychologists provide free online help for people who have limited access to healthcare.
Much of my career has focused on improving the quality of health care services. Through GTN we can improve both quality and quantity, while also increasing access to health care for medically underserved populations.”
– Greg Randolph, MD, MPH
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Director, Global Telehealth Network
GTN’s services are intended to complement, rather than replace or compete with, existing public and private health systems, so we coordinate our services with health ministries and local providers to assure continuity of care and prevent duplication of effort.
We also intend to help ministries and providers to develop internal networks within their countries. Ideally, physicians can obtain online consultations with specialists at the nearest medical centers, and they can also offer online support for nurses who operate satellite clinics in more remote areas and for Community Health Workers in villages.
Where such internal networks are in place, our matching algorithm will first attempt to utilize resources within that country. Then if adequate help is not available nearby, the system will select an international volunteer.
In every case, we intend to help build local capacity by making each telehealth consultation a learning opportunity at both ends of the connection.
Our hope is that each local health system can eventually become self-sustaining, with little or no need for backup from international volunteers. However, for the foreseeable future there will no shortage of medically underserved areas where our volunteers can offer help.
Through telehealth technology, an international network of volunteers and collaboration with partner organizations, the Global Telehealth Network is developing a worldwide system to serve those in greatest need, regardless of their location, social status or ability to pay.
When a physician on the ground requests help, GTN’s matching algorithm will evaluate the patient’s medical record and the requesting physician’s profile, then identify the volunteer medical or surgical specialist physician who is most appropriate to help and who is available within the time frame dictated by the degree of urgency.
The system will be sensitive to geography and culture, and whenever appropriate will select a specialist in the same country or region, or it will locate an appropriate physician in the diaspora. However, physician shortages often limit such possibilities, so many matches will be with international volunteers. All of those volunteers will have previously uploaded profiles describing their training, experience and interests, as well as their levels of availability (e.g., “Routine” or “Emergency Only” or “Not Available”) each day.
Assisting Other Health Workers
In many cases, requests will come from non-physician health workers in places where there are no doctors at all.
Nurses, paramedics, Community Health Workers, birth attendants, health extension workers, members of disease eradication teams, mental health workers or others with varying degrees of training and experience often must function without professional backup. Through GTN, they can request telehealth consultations with primary care physicians.
In each case, the health worker will have been trained in the use of the Global Telehealth Network and will upload whatever is already available regarding the patient’s history, exam findings and any available lab results. Before you agree to accept the request, you’ll see that information as well as a summary of relevant information from the profiles of the requesting health workers and of their practice locations, including available medication formulary, distance to nearest physician or hospital, etc.
If you don’t feel comfortable accepting the request, we’ll ask you to offer any instruction you can provide that might help the matching algorithm in its second attempt to select the ideal physician.
If you don’t begin a response within a few minutes, the system will move along and continue its selection process without further delay.
Mental Health Services
When physicians or other health workers encounter patients with mental health issues and need expert help, they can request consults with GTN psychiatrists or psychologists.