As in other parts of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding measures to contain the virus have led to significant progress in digitization in all professional sectors in Latin America. In the medical field, telemedicine, i.e. the delivery of healthcare through innovative technologies in circumstances where doctor and patient are not located in the same place, has seen consistent progress; providing an innovative and effective alternative for patients who are unable to attend healthcare facilities due to incapacity, remoteness, or the measures of enforced isolation.
Some countries in the region have already established telemedicine services, although not uniformly across the entire territory, sometimes through interesting partnerships with local space agencies and international organisations, such as the International Telecommunication Union and the World Health Organisation. Others, however, encounter difficulties in implementing telemedicine services due to a lack of specialised technological, financial and human resources, as well as an enabling legal framework.
These issues are the subject of the Initiative "Telemedicine in the era of COVID-19: a Triangular Cooperation initiative to promote social and digital inclusion," launched on September 21, 2021 and approved under the 2021 Window of the ADELANTE 2 Programme. This Initiative will promote harnessing the experience acquired by the Ministry of Health of Panama in the telemedicine sector to facilitate the creation of a telemedicine service in the Municipality of Bom Jardim, in the State of Pernambuco (Brazil), through the creation of a Triangular Cooperation network between Europe - Latin America, to encourage the exchange of good practices and the training of medical and technical resources in this field.
Together with IILA and the Municipality of Bom Jardim, the Ministry of Health in Panama and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (IS-Global) are also part of the Partnership, while the National Centre for Telemedicine and New Assistive Technologies of the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) and the Latin American Brain Health Institute (ReDLat - BrainLat) will participate through scientific and technological contributions.
The workshop was inaugurated by the Head of Sector for Investment Facilities, Triangular Cooperation and Development in Transition, DG INTPA - European Union, Gaetano Viti, who emphasised the efforts of his Directorate in promoting support programmes for the countries most affected by the pandemic, and highlighted how this particular Initiative - one of the 15 proposals selected out of the 26 submitted - provides practical and innovative solutions that can be replicated in other areas and contexts in the Region.
The Secretary General of IILA, Antonella Cavallari, highlighted the special relevance of this Triangular Cooperation initiative with regard to the objectives of IILA: "The pandemic has shown us the vital importance of new technologies. Precisely for this reason, over the last year and a half, IILA has been committed to digitalisation, cooperation in the space sector and reducing the digital divide. New technologies provide us with tools that offer solutions to specific conditions of vulnerability, and this European initiative gives us a valuable opportunity to contribute to these efforts.
uis Garrido, Advisor to the Minister of Health of Panama, Luis Francisco Sucre, defined the importance of new technologies for inclusion in healthcare, and in this regard emphasised how the initiative is closely aligned with the commitment of the Government of Panama to create a legal framework that promotes the development of telemedicine services. He highlighted the 2020-24 Strategic Plan, which includes the law passed in March of this year establishing the telemedicine system, making Panama a model for the Region.
Sérgio José Pereira da Silva, Secretary of Health of Bom Jardim, mentioned the Initiative as a valuable opportunity to establish his municipality as a benchmark for others, so that population can harness this opportunity to achieve higher quality health services in the medium term.
In their presentations, Francesco Gabbrielli, Director of the National Centre for Telemedicine and New Health Care Technologies - Italian National Institute of Health, and Dr. Gonzalo Fanjul, Director of Analysis at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (IS-Global), highlighted the experience and capacities of their institutions in establishling quality telemedicine services in Bom Jardim, and strengthening existing services in Panama. The event was brought to a close with a recorded speech by Claudia Duran-Aniotz, Co-director of Brain-Lat, who spoke of her institution and the experiences that could benefit the Initiative.
The Triangular Cooperation Initiative "Telemedicine for social inclusion in the era of COVID-19" will run for six months, from September 2021 to February 2022.
›› Video of the event