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Brazil eHealth pilot improves healthcare access for city poor

Rio de Janeiro project also finds eHealth integration provides major cost savings for health system

New Cities Foundation eHealth Brazil 

An 18-month eHealth pilot project in one of Brazil's poorest areas has found that integrating technology into the healthcare system brought better access to vital healthcare for patients who need it most.

Run by the non-profit New Cities Foundation, the Urban eHealth Project also found the technology could bring major economic savings for the health system as a whole, as well as increased efficiency for healthcare workers.

Executive director Mathieu Lefevre said: “The transformative potential of urban eHealth is huge. At a time when the global urban population is aging rapidly and going through a shift from communicable to chronic diseases, our project shows the great potential benefits that eHealth technology can bring to urban healthcare globally. We're excited to have led this pioneering project which, we hope, will be replicated in other cities.”

Working with GE Healthcare, New Cities Foundation set out to test a replicable, cost-effective healthcare model that leverages technology to provide improved access to primary healthcare in an underprivileged urban community.

New Cities Foundation eHealth backpackThey equipped a primary care health clinic in the Santa Marta favela in Rio de Janeiro with a GE-developed eHealth kit that consisted of a backpack with contained various tools to measure health indicators.

Clinic staff then made home visits to a sample of 100 elderly patients living with chronic diseases and mobility issues, in order to produce a comprehensive diagnosis.

Assessing the qualitative and quantitative impact of the project, an independent team of researchers from the State University of Rio de Janeiro increased satisfaction among patients and health professionals.

While it should be noted that the New Cities Foundation was set up by GE Healthcare, Cisco and Ericsson, the project's findings appear striking:

  • Cost savings due to avoided clinical events ranged between $4,000 (heart failure) to $200,000 (kidney dysfunction) per 100 elderly patients, while those due to avoided hospitalisations of patients with cardiovascular diseases were around $136,000 per 1000 patients
  • The eHealth backpack equipment, which would usually cost $42,000, cut the time for obtaining conventional medical test results, with blood sample results that would usually take up to 15 days being available within three minutes.

The eHealth project also helped bridge the social and digital gap between residents of Santa Marta, a low-income hilltop settlement, and the city's public healthcare system.

“The eHealth pilot essentially leapfrogged the process of gradual, incremental improvements in Rio de Janeiro's healthcare services,” New Cities Foundation's report on the pilot concluded.

15th May 2013

From: Healthcare

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