Amidst all the worries of the Zika epidemic affecting babies in Brazil, here’s a bit of encouraging news. Dr. Sandra Mattos, a pediatric cardiologist, is using telemedicine to increase those infants’ access to care. Her efforts have overcome poor infrastructure, especially in remote areas, that typically prevent families from receiving needed health care.
After experiencing telemedicine outside of Brazil, Mattos established the Heart Network to set up temporary clinics in rural communities. Throughout the one-week stay, local health care workers are supervised remotely by physicians to diagnose and treat patients. Since its inception a few years ago, the program has grown to include 22 regional hospitals and 100 doctors, delivering care to 127,000 infants. Thanks to this operation, for the first time in Brazil, country-wide data on infant health has become available.
Since the system has already been proven effective, responding to Zika outbreaks has been simple; instead of having cardiologists oversee remote patients, neurosurgeons have been brought on board to handle brain-related complications caused by the Zika virus.
Whether the patient is a child with heart problems or a newborn victim of the Zika virus, the Heart Network has brought much-needed care to a significant portion of the population. It’s a shining example of an application that probably wasn’t foreseen in the early days of telemedicine but that easily confirms the technology’s value. Who knows what other uses we’ll find in the years to come?
To read more, visit NPR.
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