Promoting telemedicine in Latin America in light of COVID-19


The Faculty of Health Sciences at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain) was officially designated a ‘World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre in eHealth’ on 5 April 2018. The Centre aims to provide support to countries willing to develop new telemedicine services; to promote the use of eHealth; and to study the adoption and use of mobile health in countries of both the Region of the Americas and Europe. On 11 March 2020, WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic given the significant increase in the number of cases worldwide. Since then, the Centre has played an important role in addressing COVID-19 by undertaking fruitful cooperative activities. Lockdowns and social distancing in response to the high contagion rate of COVID-19 were the main triggers for a challenging digital transformation in many sectors, especially in healthcare. In this extreme crisis scenario, the rapid adoption of digital health solutions and technological tools was key to responding to the enormous pressure on healthcare systems. Telemedicine has become a necessary component of clinical practice for the purpose of providing safer patient care, and it has been used to support the healthcare needs of COVID-19 patients and routine primary care patients alike. This article describes the Centre’s contribution to the work of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and WHO in supporting Latin American and European countries to develop new telemedicine services and guidance on how to address COVID-19 through digital health solutions. Future actions are also highlighted.

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