As new digital technologies grow more prominent, e-health in Latin America can provide solutions to the region’s most pressing health problems. Given existing disparities in health care and geographically complex challenges, policies promoting e-health can improve health care access and quality.
The Benefits of E-Health in Latin America
E-health relies on digital information and technology to support and improve people’s health and well-being. It has particular potential in marginalized or remote regions without easy access to traditional health facilities. E-health stands as one of the most effective ways to make health care more equitable and efficient while saving on provider costs.
- E-health initiatives can expand health care resources by allowing experts in specific health sectors access to a wider population. Due to “shortages of resources” and funding, hospitals and other health care facilities face frequent overburdening and strain. Even though health care specialists are most often located in major metropolitan areas, e-health allows them to consult with patients in far or remote regions.
- E-health in Latin America can improve preventative care. Remote monitoring of chronic or age-related illness may improve efficiency and access while still detecting symptoms before an emergency occurs.
- The creation of a health care system that accommodates cultural and linguistic differences is possible. Patients may choose not to access health care if providers in their region do not have similar cultural understandings or if there is a language barrier. Multilingual telemedicine platforms are able to dissolve language barriers.
- It will be easier to collect data and identify trends in certain populations. If health care providers have easier access to target populations, then providers can collect more data to assess and better understand health care needs and trends.
E-Health in Latin America: Examples of Success
- Mexico. Mexican e-Health startup Hoy Health began in 2017 and has announced an expansion of its telehealth services in Mexico City beginning with the Central de Abastos wholesale market. By implementing mobile health kiosks in one of the city’s most bustling wholesale marketplaces, busy individuals without easy access to health care can access health care in a location convenient for them. In each mobile health kiosk, users can participate in immediate video consultations with physicians. Beginning in February 2022, Hoy Health will be providing telehealth services via 12 mobile kiosks at different locations across Central de Abastos.
- Argentina. Argentina is a large country that experiences widespread geographic disparities in health outcomes and a severe shortage of resources in many areas. However, due to the high levels of internet and mobile penetration, e-health is able to provide a successful solution to expanding health care access. Health centers specializing in highly complex cases are typically found in urban areas. Two of these centers, the Garrahan Hospital and the Instituto Zaldívar, implement remote telemedicine programs allowing them to easily access rural communities.
- Colombia. Colombia proves to be a pioneer in terms of e-health in Latin America. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the country has “held more than 9 million telemedicine appointments,” a more than 7,000% increase in comparison to pre-pandemic numbers. This trend is unlikely to waver as the pandemic subsides and the country can now use the robust e-health network to solve other health problems. Colombia is a large, biodiverse country with many remote regions that are difficult to access. Telehealth can provide these citizens with access to care.
E-health in Latin America can aid in eliminating many existing barriers to quality health care. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption and implementation of such measures. While Latin America must contend with various challenges, such as a lack of resources and specialists, widespread disparities and remote regions without easy access, e-health programs and technologies can reach more citizens and improve the health and well-being of the region’s inhabitants.
– Jennifer Hendricks
Photo: Wikipedia Commons