NetAcad Volunteers Link Doctors with Patients Virtually

Cisco Student Volunteers play a key role in helping doctors give medical assistance through the use of technology at a critical time, while gaining valuable hands on experience.

From July 2011 through January 2012, Thailand suffered its worst floods in half a century. Nearly two-thirds of the country flooded, impacting businesses, manufacturing, and production—causing massive economic losses. The devastating impact to its people was immeasurable. Water rose quickly, homes and communities were destroyed, and seniors, children, and single mothers were forced into shelters.

The need for medical help was urgent. People suffered from diseases and were under tremendous stress. The limitation of the number of doctors and difficulty in traveling made it nearly impossible to get medical care to people.

Supat Sonthiporn, the Networking Academy student volunteer, supports the doctors and patients, and also monitors the network during the Thailand flood project.

Cisco Thailand Country Manager, Dr. Tatchapol Poshyanonda, and the management team knew technology could solve the immediate need of connecting medical personnel with patients—specifically medical mobile services using Cisco TelePresence. They also called on the Cisco Networking Academy to provide a student IT volunteers for technical assistance connecting the TP EX90 with hospital staff at Rama Hospital.

Supat Sonthiporn, a third-year student from Rajamangala University of Technology, Thanyaburi (who continues to study in CCNA), one alumnus, and a Cisco SE, CM, and AM collaborated. Sonthiporn knew how to configure the router and switch, but never had experience using TelePresence. The project enabled him to learn new technology, and monitor and ensure the connectivity of the two sites. “He was right there, assisting the doctors, nurses, and patients,” explains Chanunda Phongposob, program manager, Social Innovation Group, Thailand.

In connecting the two sites, reliable bandwidth was essential. “They needed to ensure the link was on when the doctors needed it,” Chanunda explains. Besides providing support for doctors and patients, the student volunteer also supported the Cisco team in helping to ensure the internet connectivity was on.

In collaboration was TOT, one of the service providers in Thailand, who provided support on connectivity, and Planet Communications Asia Co., Ltd., the Cisco Partner, who provided equipment and technical support to make this project successful

During the month, there were 180 cases utilizing the technology.  Both doctors and patients were impressed with the reliability.  For some, this was the first time using TelePresence. “The reaction from the doctors was ‘wow’—they were amazed by the quality of the pictures,” says Sonthiporn. “And because I was a student providing support, they naturally thought the technology was easy to use.”

The project was a great example of how TelePresence can help in a crisis situation, and further, how technology can help people. “People were very stressed and unsure about the future,” explains “TelePresence provided them with a way to talk with someone—this was a huge medical benefit.”

For Sonthiporn, it was a real-life project that provided valuable experience, not only learning about the network and new Cisco technology, but in making a difference in the community.   Adds Chanunda, “It was also a lesson in the importance of collaboration. We cannot do everything alone, so it is important to have the right partners to create impact.”