Implementation of telemedicine in the Americas: Barriers and facilitators

Garcia Saiso et al.

With millions of people in the world in situations of physical distancing because of COVID-19, information and communication technology (ICT) has become as one of the principal means of interaction and collaboration. The following advantages of ICT have been cited since the start of the new millennium: increased access to information and service delivery, educational strengthening, quality control of screening programs, and reduction of health care costs. In the case of telemedicine, however, a number of barriers—especially technological, human and social, psychosocial, anthropological, economic, and governance-related—have stood in the way of its adoption. The past 20 years have seen an increase in the availability of resources and technical capacity, improvements in digital education, empowerment of patients regarding their treatment, and increased public interest in this area. Successes have included the use of interdisciplinary teams, academic and professional networking, and virtual medical consultations. After reviewing the state of telemedicine in the Region of the Americas, the authors recommend the urgent adoption of measures aimed at implementing national telemedicine policies and programs, including a regulatory framework and adequate funding. Implementation of the measures should be integrated and interoperable and include the support of academic networks and the collaboration of specialized institutions. The policies should generate an enabling context that ensures sustainability of the progress achieved, bearing in mind the possible barriers mentioned.

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Opinion and analysis