Webinar looks at remote Latin American healthcare, reveals progress and perils.

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In a recent webinar hosted by the FIU College of Business, eight experts gave a broad overview of how Latin America's healthcare providers use remote access to connect with patients, and how to scale and expand that option moving forward.

The "Telehealth Evolution in Latin America" event brought together researchers, clinicians and academics to share telehealth experiences and study results. Cynthia LeRouge, professor in the FIU Business Master of Science in Health Informatics and Analytics program, led the session, which co-sponsored the webinar. 

"The purpose of today is not just to learn, but to provide a foundation for making connections to promote industry, academic collaboration, telehealth innovation, – and the success and impact of telehealth services involving Latin American countries," LeRouge said.

At the event, three key speakers and four panelists with years of field experience shared their insights for expanding Latin American national and international telehealth services.

Guillaume Corpart, founder of Coral Gables-based Global Health Intelligence, a health-sector-focused market research firm, said Latin America has about 22% of the world's hospitals. Yet they are typically smaller than those in Europe and the U.S.

"There is a direct correlation between the size of the hospital and their ability to invest in technology, including telehealth," he said.

Latin America's hospitals, like those worldwide, faced revenue loss from delayed elective procedures during the height of COVID-19, he noted. Still, 90% of hospitals that offered pandemic telehealth visits saw encounters increase.

"Scale is critical to technology adoption," Corpart said. "If we don't think in terms of scalable solutions, we will not be able to meet the long-term healthcare needs brought forth by the macro drivers like an aging population and chronic disease." 

Dr. Ibrahim Qaddoumi, a neuro-oncologist on the faculty of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, director of the Global Neuro-oncology Program and head of the Jordan Program, cautioned that technology must focus on patient needs and adapt to local resources and targeted disease. "It's a huge challenge when you use tech to put the patient in the center."

He indicated that sometimes alignment with health and patient needs means using low-level tech options, even email or telephone, to facilitate a smooth process.

Fitting telehealth into a revenue scheme means crafting a strategy based on economic trends and the nature of the problem, said FIU's Robert Hacker, co-founder, and director of StartUp FIU, which helps faculty, students and researchers turn ideas into business ventures.

Several factors now favor the expansion of telehealth in Latin America. "Digital health is being very well-funded in the United States and around the world," Hacker said. And a significant amount of foreign venture capital is coming into Latin America, while cloud computing and increased connections among devices are lowering costs. 

And don't try to solve every issue alone, he advised. "Do what you are expert in and look for complementary partners," he said, adding that the right specialist could be halfway around the globe.

As the event wrapped up, LeRouge underscored that one of the sponsors, the FIU Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), one of 15 nationally designated centers underwritten by the U.S. Department of Education, was available for participants to connect with after the webinar. To gain more insights on Telehealth in Latin America, visit the event recording on FIU Business YouTube (https://youtu.be/RWkor7a_58w).