Telemedicine in Kazakhstan: smart health services delivery

Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world, spanning nearly 3 million square kilometres. Its geographic size means that much of the population lives in rural settings, far from the country’s main medical centres.

In view of this, Kazakhstan is investing in new technologies to deliver health services to people in rural areas. A telemedicine network, launched in 2004, helps rural populations access specialized medical care, with general practitioners and specialists providing teleconsultation.

As one intensive care doctor puts it, “Now we can contact any specialist in Kazakhstan any time – and save more lives.”

The telemedicine network is part of the strategic plan of the Ministry of Health for 2017 to 2021. The Government intends to develop the network further, to introduce “smart medical services” such as mobile applications for disease management, prevention and treatment, and to generally scale up digital health.

Like many countries in the WHO European Region, Kazakhstan faces a growing burden of noncommunicable diseases. This means that a significant number of the remote sessions delivered through the network are designed to support the management of chronic conditions.

In 2016, experts in 15 regional hospitals, the children’s regional hospital of Shymkent and 14 state clinics conducted over 28 000 telemedicine and video consultations. Of these, over 26 000 were conducted by regional hospitals and about 2000 by state clinics. Reflecting the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases, the most frequent teleconsultations were for cardiology, pulmonology and neurology.