By Adrian Anacleto, CEO of Epidata
It is often said that “desperate situations call for desperate measures”. Well, while we wait for the pandemic to find an effective treatment to deal with it, humanity has had to dip into available resources and do what it can to continue with its day-to-day life.
Heath, particularly health care not tied to the current contingency, has begun to set aside its cultural biases on the doctor-patient relationship and the possible drawbacks that technology intermediation could bring. An example in this sense is the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in the United States, where it was learned this week that telemedicine is being applied to nearly 85% of outpatient consultations.
Although nothing beats human contact, the authorities’ recommendations to avoid medical guards and not to exploit the health system present an opportunity to test the scope of telemedicine. This same approach led people to adopt techniques that were previously directly dismissed or replaced by personal visits to the care facility. In Latin America, the trend is also beginning to emerge, both in Argentina and in Uruguay and Chile.
To be more clear, the term “telemedicine” encompasses the use of telecommunications and virtual technology to provide health care services without seeing the patient in person and outside traditional care facilities. Healthcare providers can use tools such as live video, audio or instant messaging to respond to patients’ concerns and remotely get a diagnosis of their condition. This may include giving medical advice, guiding them through home exercises, or modifying their medications or dosage based on the latest clinical analysis.
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, we have seen interesting progress on this issue. In Argentina, the National Health Ministry launched an application to detect symptoms of COVID-19, which totaled 500,000 discharges in less than seven days, and consultations through prepaid medicine applications grew by 700 to 2,000 percent, according to estimates from the sector. And just in case there was any lack of modernity, now prescriptions digitized by WhatsApp are accepted, when before it was impossible to have a medicine without presenting a paper in a pharmacy shop.
In Uruguay, the Parliament reconsidered and approved in 24 hours a law that gives a regulatory framework to this practice. The purpose of the law is to “establish general guidelines for the implementation and development of telemedicine as a health service provider, in order to improve its efficiency and quality and increase its coverage through the use of information and communication technologies. One of the arguments that supported the approval of this law was the universality, equity, quality of service, decentralization, complementarity and efficiency that telemedicine represents, since it reduces health costs and optimizes healthcare resources.
The journey is a long one. What is clear is that before the pandemic, it was estimated that the telemedicine industry in the region would reach US$ 4 billion by 2023. This situation will undoubtedly increase investment in the sector and its scope, expanding its potential. After all, crises can bring out the best in us, improve the conditions of others and allow us to innovate in areas that we thought were unknown or that, for simple cultural reasons, we were not seeing.
Epidata is a privately held, multinational software solutions development company, headquartered in Buenos Aires with ten offices in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and San Francisco, USA. From there, it is dedicated to providing innovation, application modernization, IoT, machine learning, consulting and Big Data services. Its business solutions and products optimize operations, create better experiences for employees and attract customers. It has a proven track record of successfully supporting multinational corporations such as Stanford Research Institute (SRI), JP Morgan, Tenaris, Turner, Telecom, HSBC, Monsanto and Walmart since 2003; and since its beginnings it has established a series of strategic alliances with important companies such as Microsoft, Mulesoft, Oracle, IBM, CA Technologies, MariaDB, Red Hat and FCEyN – UBA (University of Buenos Aires) that allow them to offer digital solutions to their clients.