Telehealth in COVID19 times: providing free health services to the community in Ecuador

It was March 16th 2020 when quarantine was declared in Ecuador, everybody in their offices and schools were sent home. The government officially instituted a call center and the 171 number for people presenting the symptoms, but even by that time, with the emergency just starting, that 171 line was already saturated, that is when the CEDIA team decided to find a way to help.

CEDIA is the National Research and Education Network in Ecuador, providing academics with high quality connectivity, technological services, R+D+I funding, and more. With the technological capability to set up our own virtual platform for communications, the team found a medical partner, the local hospital of Cuenca city, whom provided the medical content for a virtual medical platform. That same day CEDIA started working on developing this platform and by March 19th had it working for Cuenca city.

The objective of this project was to set up a web platform and make it available to citizens as an alternative source of medical guidance in the event of possible Covid-19 symptoms, freeing up the call center set up by the Government (Ministry of Public Health). Both these telehealth services provide a way of containing the spread of the virus by preventing patients from going to health care centers.

How does it work?

The telehealth service implemented by CEDIA works through the web page

In the first instance, the patient is asked to register their personal data, once this requirement has been fulfilled, they accept the terms of service and access the general teleconsultation room. In the general consultation room they are received by the Admissions person, who confirms the patient’s data and refers them to the appropriate private tele-care room according to their conditions. Once in this room, the health professional provides medical guidance to the patient; recommendations are also sent by e-mail, and the patient’s progress is tracked in future sessions as required. In some cases, the patient can access a medical prescription and even home delivery of the required medicines.

Service Components

CEDIA makes available:

  • Link to the web platform with the ability to share multimedia and informative content, etc.
  • Video consultation room that allows the participation of up to 300 people (150 doctors and 150 patients) simultaneously.
  • Software to manage the information generated in teleconsultation:, where clinical histories of the patients are recorded, making diagnoses and prescriptions available for other doctors to access in cases of complementary patient consultations.
  • Training for all project staff in the areas mentioned above.
  • Post implementation monitoring for feedback and continuous improvement of the platform.

As counterpart, we need to partner with medical or educational centers, which can provide professional healthcare advice through teleconference.

Extending the reach

The project started as a pilot plan with the Municipality of Cuenca through its Municipal Hospital for Women and Children, with a staff of 12 doctors, currently there are 20 health professionals working from Monday to Sunday in shifts and 8 days hours.

CEDIA is currently collaborating with 5 more institutions: the city of Ibarra through the Universidad Técnica del Norte- UTN, the Universidad Técnica de Ambato – UTA, Universidad Central del Ecuador – UCE , the Organization for Attention to Psychological Emergencies – ORGAEPSI and the Instituto Tecnológico Bolivariano in Guayaquil. With all these partners today, the platform has more than 400 professionals willing to serve citizens, more than 6500 medical consultations made and excellent feedback received from users.

We are proud to tell you that started as a way to contain the spread of the pandemic and has brought additional unexpected benefits. First it allows medical professionals in vulnerable situations to work from home and keep serving patients while taking care of their own health. The service now attends to more than COVID cases. It also provides medical guidance in specialties, tele-rehabilitation services, legal guidance in cases of violence, and even tele-entrepreneurship.

CEDIA is open to exploring opportunities to further develop the service with partner organizations who are interested in improving the lives of the people of Ecuador.

Published: 12/2020

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