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Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Telemedicine before and beyond the coronavirus in Latin America

Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

ContxtoThe coronavirus pandemic has taken underestimated forms of tech and made them the greatest thing since sliced bread. A prime example are telemedicine platforms.

Unwilling to leave home and risk exposing themselves to Covid-19, countless people in Latin America and throughout the world have realized the practicality of talking to a doctor without “going to the doctor’s”.

What is telemedicine?

Simply put, it’s any form of remote healthcare carried out between a medical practitioner and a patient. It can take the form of a chat system, a video conference call, or a phone call. Even emailing can be considered telemedicine (but ugh, who wants a long email thread discussing that weird lump on your arm?).

Anywho, it’s generally agreed upon that there are three types of telemedicine:

  • Remote monitoring: wherein a patient uses tech devices to check their own signs (blood pressure, oxygen levels, and so on) and this information can then be shared with a doctor to proceed accordingly.
  • Store-and-forward: consists of the gathering of clinical information in one place and sending it electronically to another for further analysis. For example, if a patient’s medical history is obtained at a local clinic and then forwarded to a specialist in another part of the country for followup.
  • Real-time encounters: these may be the most familiar to you, dear reader. They consist of these more live interactions between a practitioner and a patient, through a video conference call for example.
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Telemedicine during coronavirus

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, telemedicine hadn’t received much attention. Patients preferred in-person consultations. It served as a sort of “comfort” knowing a physician was looking at you and listening to all your concerns.

If anything, telemedicine was conceived as an approach to bring healthcare services to remote parts of Latin America.

However they’ve grown in popularity because they help patients screen their symptoms and determine if they’ve caught Covid-19. But these solutions are also helping people who are concerned about other maladies.

Correspondingly, startups that offer these types of services are experiencing peaks in demand. These high levels of activity won’t last forever, mind you. Nonetheless, they’ve acquired new users many of which are likely to return even after quarantine measures wind down.

Though perhaps more importantly, they’re providing people the reassurance that a medical practitioner is guiding them through health concerns.

Telemedicine beyond Covid-19

Even as lockdowns ease up, many people will be reluctant to visit the doctor’s office. Consequently, don’t expect telemedicine platforms to suddenly drop off the radar.

What’s more, remote healthcare, especially in the form of real-time encounters is here to stay. In a bit of a domino effect, healthtechs that can help digitize prescriptions can also expect higher levels of activity in the future. Nonetheless this implies there will be more work for legislators and businesses alike to address. 

Examples include the validation of digital prescriptions as well as security measures to protect patient data.

Meanwhile, companies and startups will further embrace health insurance that covers remote healthcare services and platforms. It’s the kind of employee perk crawling silently into the “must have” category. One can also expect startups to design more sophisticated devices to remotely monitor patient progress.

Related articles: Tech and startups from Chile!

-ML

Mariana López
My topic darlings are startup management, edtech, and all-things pop culture. J Balvin is Latin America's best reggaetonero and I dare you to convince me otherwise.

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