Telemedicine in Latin America: educating healthcare personnel

Investment in educational projects is one of the steps that public and private organizations in Latin America must take to boost the benefits of virtual health and telemedicine.An opinion paper written by Dr. Walter Curioso, from the University of Washington, in the United States, states that e-learning is probably the most viable option for providing fast and efficient knowledge to future healthcare professionals.Isabel Lobos, executive director of Tula Salud, an NGO that trains doctors and nurses virtually in Guatemala, agrees. For her, virtual programs can have a greater impact than face-to-face education in a country where there are 0.4 healthcare professionals per 1,000 people.“Educational processes usually reach the same people. We are talking about the institutional heads, the directors, or chiefs, those who are in a middle ground within the staff. Very rarely they can reach the grassroots, those who give care in less favorable conditions, much more solitary. These people should...

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Telemedicine in Latin America: invest to expand

In certain parts of Latin America, virtual health begins to take steps to meet the challenges and provide digital services to the population. One of the first is to design and execute investment projects in this new industry that gained momentum due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the private (green) and public (blue) expenditure on health in Latin American and Caribbean countries. (Source: WHO, Global Health Expenditure Database, 2016)According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), resources for telemedicine should be included in plans to improve infrastructure and equipment in healthcare centers. Its experts assure that it is necessary to overcome the inequality gaps that exist in Latin America in the 21st century. These are reflected, for example, in the 2018 Broadband Development Index, which revealed that the region lags the most advanced member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).One of the Latin Americ...

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Telemedicine in Latin America: the pending digital divide

Despite the benefits they generate during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual health and telemedicine need to overcome challenges to grow in Latin America. One of the most prevalent is the digital divide that marginalizes those who live in the lowest socioeconomic strata and lack access to internet services.In 2017, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimated that there are more than 200 million people of working age who are digitally excluded in the region. A year later, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) reported that 56% of people used the internet, but only 45.5% of households had a broadband connection.These differences in Latin America are of concern to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which states that "digital inclusion is a crucial element [...] in the region, where internet services [...] are considered essential to ensure the well-being of citizens".Entrepreneur Marcel Roehrs witnessed the backlog when he founded ...

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Telemedicine in Latin America: in search of trained personnel

The success of digital health and telemedicine depends on people with the training and experience to deliver top-caliber care. It is a visible reality in any territory, especially in Latin America, where more trained healthcare professionals are needed to provide services to the population.

According to 2017 statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Latin American region registers one of the largest shortages of healthcare personnel in the world. On average there are 2.28 medical doctors per thousand inhabitants, a figure below the minimum level, which is 2.3 professionals per thousand people.

The need for human resources is most urgent in countries such as Haiti, Guyana, Honduras, and Guatemala, where there is less than one doctor per thousand inhabitants.
The relevance of nurses
The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the importance of having nurses in healthcare services. Susan Groenwald, former president of Chamberlain University in the United States, explains: “They are th...

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Telemedicine in Latin America: an introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic broke paradigms of human work and, as expected, changed the medical industry. It triggered the practice of telemedicine and digital health. Patients stopped visiting clinics and started scheduling appointments and receiving care through their laptops, tablets, or smartphones.

This medical revolution seems to be growing every day in a world where more than half of the population uses the Internet. According to an article on medicaleconomics.com, the adoption of telehealth by patients in early 2020 increased by 33% over 2019. In addition, the market is expected to reach $185.6 billion by 2026.

According to Talía Wegman-Ostrosky, an oncogenetician at Mexico's National Cancer Institute, the advance of telemedicine responds to the facilities it offers compared to face-to-face services. For example, according to Forbes, it saves patients more than 100 minutes of their time compared to an in-person consultation.

"It's here to stay. [...] It avoids travel expenses, wai...

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