Bringing health care to the people

Health care

In remote rural areas of Venezuela, getting a blood sample to the medical center for a malaria test used to take one week by boat and then hours by car. Now, using telemedicine, it is possible to get the results the same day.

Dr. Tomas Sanabria, director of the Venezuelan health care foundation Fundaciòn Maniapure, says information and communication technologies (ICT) are making a huge difference to medical care in isolated villages.

"In the La Milagrosa Medical Center in the remote region of Maniapure, for example, telemedicine has allowed patients to directly benefit from specialist support and coordination in their clinical care," he says.

Sanabria says telemedicine has provided the medical center's health professionals not only with internet access to medical libraries around the world, but also direct access to specialists at the tertiary care center of Hospital Centro Médico of Caracas through the transfer of images.

These uses of telemedicine mean that patients can be treated locally, and when needed, they can also be referred for further evaluation and care.

Sanabria cites a recent case involving an 8-year-old girl suffering from shortness of breath, fatigue and growth delay. The case notes, together with the ECG and x-ray results were sent to the referral hospital via the internet. The medical team at La Milagrosa was then able to discuss the information with the pediatric cardiac unit, resulting in a decision to operate that saved the girl’s life.

"Thanks to telemedicine the child only had to stay in Caracas for a short period, as the doctors who conducted the surgery were able to find out about her condition and medical history beforehand,” Sanabria says. “We were also able to save a lot on resources, and avoided endless waiting and frustration on the part of both the patient and health personnel."

Pedro Filizzola, who is responsible for managing customer solutions at Ericsson Venezuela, says: "This is just the beginning of an experience that opens new horizons in medical care and which can be useful as a reference model to be copied, improved and expanded to other remote areas in the country."

Filizzola also says that while the technical requirements for the exchange of medical information are minimal, the benefits are wide ranging as the technology can deliver medical care to patients wherever they are.

Ericsson is supporting the work of Fundaciòn Maniapure to promote and expand the use of telemedicine applications over broadband-enabled mobile networks. This project is part of the company’s work to support the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Telemedicine brings benefits to health professionals, students, patients and medical institutions.

For health personnel, ICT can:

  • Benefit medical practitioners and students in remote areas through exchange of information between primary and specialty care
  • Enable practitioners to obtain a second opinion to help with diagnosis
  • Strengthen cooperation between health professionals
  • Improve coordination
  • Optimize the administrative management of patients (for example by coordinating requests for consultations or tests)
  • Provide tools to support decision making and clinical management
  • Generate reports that can be used as a form of distance education.

For patients, ICT can:

  • Improve the quality of health care
  • Reduce costs and unnecessary travel.

About Fundación Proyecto Maniapure

The Venezuelan health care foundation works to support and provide health care services, telemedicine and education to a large region of the Bolivar state. The population in this region is made up of predominantly Panapare Indians and creoles.