When remoteness or lack of transportation is a barrier to health care, telemedicine is a powerful solution. It can extend the reach and improve the effectiveness of health care, while maintaining high standards and attention to patient safety.

We’ve been writing about the promise of telemedicine since we began this blog, including how Johns Hopkins is using it domestically to coordinate patients’ care at home and to do video consultations with doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

At JHI, we’ve also been exploring how we can leverage telemedicine to improve the health of individuals and communities, regardless of where they are in the world. We’ll discuss this more in the months ahead. But for now, we recently achieved an important milestone in our telemedicine work with Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH), our joint venture with the oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco.

Saudi Aramco asked for Johns Hopkins’ support in developing a telemedicine program to provide immediate, high-quality health care to thousands of the company’s employees who work in remote areas or off-shore locations.

We had already implemented an emergency medicine services and disaster management program at JHAH, so we built on that success to integrate a telemedicine initiative. For more than a year, we evaluated the IT infrastructure and technical support needed to expand emergency medical services and improve response time for Saudi Aramco patients at remote area clinics (RACs), part of the company’s extended care network.

This planning came to fruition this spring with the launch of a telemedicine pilot in the RACs located at Shaybah and Tanajib. The pilot aims to decrease unnecessary medical evacuations by allowing Emergency Department physicians to provide immediate consultation remotely from Dhahran Medical Center, JHAH’s main hospital, so patients can receive care as close to the worksite as possible.

Additionally, JHAH patients now have alternative access to care, and physicians in Dhahran and the RACS can consult with one another more directly to reduce unnecessary costs and risks and improve the quality of care their patients receive.

Next, we’ll explore the possibility of extending this telemedicine pilot platform beyond emergency medicine to serve additional eligible medical recipients at JHAH and potentially new patient populations from across the Kingdom and region.