Even as some regions around the world are cautiously re-opening, Latin America (LATAM) is currently a COVID-19 hotspot, with more than 2.1 million cases.[i] And although LATAM is home to nearly one fourth of the world’s hospitals, they tend to be much smaller than hospitals in the U.S. with limited capacity to expand quickly.[ii] Moreover, medical centers and doctors in LATAM are concentrated in urban areas, leaving much of the large rural population without reliable access to healthcare.
Telemedicine promises to help fill the gap by enabling healthcare professionals to assess, diagnose and treat patients remotely via chat, voice or video. These critical services can help to minimize potential infectious exposures and patient surges at medical facilities. Telemedicine can also help to expand the reach of healthcare services to those who have preexisting health conditions or who do not have local access to providers. But, to deliver telehealth services successfully, providers need a way to connect and exchange data between disparate IT systems while safeguarding the security of patient and hospital data. A distributed IT infrastructure based on an interconnection platform such as Platform Equinix® achieves this goal and enables healthcare providers to securely integrate digital services, collaborate with partners and leverage data for holistic and personalized care.
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Telemedicine in LATAM
Prior to COVID-19, telemedicine adoption in LATAM was uneven – a joint study by Global Health Intelligence and Florida International University across nine LATAM countries found that telemedicine adoption by hospitals ranged from 25% in Colombia to 68% in Chile.[iii] Multiple factors were noted as shaping adoption rates including the national environment, regulatory and legal frameworks and more.
However, a more recent study projects that the LATAM telemedicine market, valued at more than $1.5 billion in 2019, will grow at more than 20.5% annually between 2020 and 2026.[iv] Recent activity in the sector includes examples like:[v]
- Peruvian telemedicine startup Smart Doctor is partnering with the Peruvian government to provide remote triage, consulting and monitoring of COVID-19 patients.
- Seguros SURA Colombia, one of the largest insurance providers in LATAM, is partnering with New York-based Pager to expand its virtual healthcare model to enable patients to interact with their care team remotely.
- The Latin American Telemedicine Infarct Network (LATIN), has grown to include more than 120 participating clinics and 19 hospitals in Colombia and Brazil. In remote parts of Mexico, 35 primary care centers and three hospitals have also adopted the model for the first time to provide urgent care for cardiovascular disease needs.
- Meditar, the largest managed healthcare company in LATAM has launched a direct to consumer telemedicine solution in partnership with GlobalMed for Argentina and neighboring nations.
Telemedicine use cases and benefits
While telemedicine is generally perceived as being live a remote interaction between doctor and patient, other major use cases include remote diagnostics / monitoring via mobile devices and the electronic transmission of a patient’s health information to a specialist for further analysis. Potential applications and benefits include:
Improved safety and access
- Remotely screen patients with symptoms of COVID-19.
- Provide low-risk virtual urgent care and referral for non-COVID-19 conditions.
- Continue to provide routine primary and specialist care for health checkups, chronic conditions and medication management. Examples include mental and behavioral health, physical therapy, obstetrics, oncology, etc.
- Expand access to diagnosis, triage, and ongoing care for patients in remote areas or those with compromised immune systems / limited mobility, etc.
- Remotely monitor chronic conditions such as diabetes, dementia, blood pressure, etc.
- Optimize doctor and patient time.
- Reduce cost – average telemedicine consult is $79 vs an in-person doctor visit ($149) or hospital visit ($1,734).[vi]
- Enable peer-to-peer training for healthcare providers in remote locations.
- Capture/store high-resolution images and video and forward electronically to specialists for further diagnosis.
How interconnection helps deliver optimal care
All of these examples require fast and secure low-latency connectivity between healthcare providers and patients to ensure that people get the care they need, when they need it without compromising safety, data privacy or health outcomes. By leveraging an interconnection platform such as Platform Equinix®, healthcare providers can shorten the distance to patients, partners, systems, data and clouds to better support real-time interaction and fast, compliant data exchange within a rich ecosystem of partners. And that will lead to better patient experiences and care, improved outcomes and innovation for the future.
To learn more, download the Healthcare Digital Edge Playbook.
You may also be interested in reading how one U.S. healthcare provider was prepared to meet the two-week, 1455% increase in its patients’ telemedicine usage in April 2020.
[i] CBS News, Coronavirus deaths soar in Latin America and the Caribbean, with Brazil hit hardest, June 2020.
[ii] Global Health Intelligence, The Impact of Coronavirus on Latin America’s Healthcare System – Crisis Vs. Opportunity, April 2020.
[iii] PR Newswire, Global Health Intelligence, Telemedicine Adoption Grows Strongly in Latin America, April 2019.
[iv] Cole Market Research, Telemedicine Market analysis research and trends report for 2020 – 2026, June 2020.
[v] Contxto, Telemedicine startup, Smart Doctor, teams up with Peruvian government, Apr 2020; HIT Consultant, Pager Goes International, Expands Virtual Care Model to Latin America, Feb 2020; MEDTRONIC, Latin Telemedicine Expands Impacting More Patients; AZ Big Media, GlobalMed helps launch direct-to-consumer telemedicine program across Latin America, Sept 2019.
[vi] Global Health Intelligence, Telemedicine in Latin America: Gauging Its Potential During the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond, Apr 2020.