This is the second of a series of articles related to health-tech and how important it is. This was made with a partnership with Minerva we worked on the “Buenos Aires Civic Challenge” to answer the question: How important is a good UX to improve healthcare services in developing countries? The deliverables were several articles tackling different topics. Here is the second one of them.

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Telemedicine on the rise 📈

Telemedicine is the provision of remote clinical services by healthcare professionals to patients via telecommunications technology. Since the 1950s, doctors have used the telephone to transmit radiographic images. But in today’s world, this doctor to doctor communication has expanded to include doctor to patient communication. A doctor in Cordoba could be diagnosing a patient in Buenos Aires with their laptop.

Why is this so important? Telemedicine fosters connectivity between those in need and those who provide it. Patients located in rural or remote areas or who have disabilities are now able to receive care without making a long journey to the doctor’s office. 

A study shows 🔎 that telemedicine patients score lower for depression, anxiety, and stress, and have 38% fewer hospital admissions, thus also reducing unnecessary hospital expenses. 

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Global stories 🌍

Banner Health x VeeMed 

Enabling collaboration between doctors

When COVID-19 caused a rush of patients to flood hospitals, Banner Health worked with Intel and VeeMed to bring advanced software to more than 1,000 in-room televisions across their facilities, which allowed top specialists to consult patients without risking transmission. Remote care helped preserve the short supply of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and face shields which would typically be needed for in-person consultations. 

Apollo Hospitals -  Himachal Pradesh Telehealth Services Project

Increasing accessibility to healthcare in remote locations 

Apollo Hospitals set up one of the highest telemedicine stations in the world in the Himalayas! Through using 512 kbps satellite connections and VSee video-conferencing software, Apollo Hospitals’ two telemedicine stations in the remote villages of Kaza and Keylong are able to connect with specialists across India. A man involved in an auto accident was able to get a consultation from an emergency specialist within eight minutes of a Tele Emergency request!

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Telemedicine in Latin America 🩺📱

19% of Latin Americans live in rural areas, 9% of the population is over 65, and this is only increasing. The big divide in access to healthcare between rural and urban areas has led to the need for an alternative to in-person treatment. Telemedicine is trying to bridge this divide and there are already a promising number of organizations leading its widespread growth:

  • Swiss Medical: Launched a telemedicine platform that allows online consultations between doctors and patients in Argentina
  • Enlace Hispano-Americano de Salud (EHAS) Foundation: Works to provide healthcare to rural Latin American communities through ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies)
  • BoaConsulta: Developed an app for scheduling appointments and offers free online assistance related to COVID-19 on its platform
  • OdontoPrev: Developed Dentista Online, so its 7 million beneficiaries can receive oral health consultations without going outside.

However, adoption of telemedicine is not equal across Latin America; while countries like Chile and Brazil are leading the way, Argentina is falling behind

🔎  In 2019, ~70% of Argentinians had access to the internet and smartphones. Furthermore, since 2014, Argentina has had a national telehealth strategy, yet adoption is at less than 30%.

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So if telemedicine is so great, why isn’t it more prevalent in Argentina? 🇦🇷

For two main reasons:

  • Data Privacy & Regulations: Especially with medical records, data privacy is a huge issue that the government, doctors, and patients are skeptical about. Healthcare laws, privacy protection, and reimbursement policies are struggling to keep up with this fast-growing industry, leaving implementation of telemedicine often isolated and scattered.
  • Technology Adoption: Patients and doctors are hesitant to adopt telemedicine technologies. Initial investment for doctors is quite hefty - they must find a video service that is secure, complete proper training, and restructure IT staff responsibilities. Importantly, telemedicine apps and tools must be easy to use by both doctors and patients, and that’s where strategic UI & UX needs to play a role!

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Looking Ahead 👀

Argentina has quite some catching up to do. In particular, here are the next steps that Argentina should be taking:

  1. Better partnership between the tech and healthcare sectors in order to implement effective change management strategies.
  2. More work by the government to increase telemedicine’s popularity through clearer policy and greater promotion of telemedicine platforms.
  3. Increasing commercial telemedicine solutions, like Swiss Medical, to improve access and provide more options for patients.

Imagine a future where instead of being concentrated in one hospital, healthcare can take place virtually anywhere - on a ⛰️ mountain in Patagonia, 🏠 a rural area of La Pampa province, or 🌆 in the middle of the city of Buenos Aires. The future looks promising if Argentina can step up!

At Aerolab, we’re already working with several companies in the healthcare industry to improve their digital practices. Want to learn more? Let’s talk!