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In the developing world, even the simplest medical procedures are potential life-or-death situations. This is especially true in rural villages, where the nearest hospital may be hours away and transport facilities are costly and thin on the ground.
One such area is Parintins, an area of Brazil located near the Amazon, where just 32 physicians look after more than 100,000 inhabitants. It's here that Intel has chosen to implement a pilot scheme that uses WiMax wireless broadband technology to connect patients and doctors.
The Parintins project makes up part of Intel's World Ahead programme, which will extend PC access to a billion users over the next five years. It will also train more than 10 million teachers in the use of technology for education, with the possibility of reaching out to a further one billion students.
In conjunction with the medical school at the University of São Paulo, Intel has installed the infrastructure and wireless networks to connect two schools, a community centre and a healthcare clinic. Using these facilities, physicians can hold teleconferencing sessions with their patients, enabling them to diagnose and monitor medical conditions without the expense and logistical difficulties of face-to-face meetings.
Teleconferencing also makes it quick and easy to obtain a second opinion from another physician, who could be several hours away. And the World Ahead project will help to provide medical education, giving the citizens of Parintins information on how to avoid life-threatening diseases such as Aids.
The Wi-Fi connection that links the schools with the healthcare clinic will allow doctors to train students and provide access to videos, documents and webcasts on specific topics.
"This technology will allow the citizens of a remote town such as Parintins to access high-quality information, education and medical resources just as well as citizens of any of the world's great capitals," said Parintins mayor Frank Bi Garcia.
According to Intel, all of these tools will allow the exchange of experience and information among medical professionals, upgrading the quality of healthcare in the town. If the pilot proves successful, the Federal Medicine Council in Brazil intends to replicate it nationwide.
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