With doctors unevenly distributed across Latin American countries and concentrated in urban areas, patients in rural and marginal suburban areas often have limited access to both primary care physicians and specialists. Telemedicine could play an important role in addressing this problem. In a new study appearing in the February issue of Health Affairs, Cynthia LeRouge of Florida International University and coauthors reviewed 2017 hospital survey data to identify determinants of telemedicine use in nine Latin American countries (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay). Of the hospitals responding to the surveys (on average, 65 percent of the hospitals in each country), telemedicine use ranged from 25 percent of hospitals in Colombia to 65 percent of hospitals in Chile. The study profiled current levels of telemedicine use and assessed forces driving that use: selected health organization characteristics (for example, the presence of IT leaders, yet not the number of IT staff), national policy and legislation, and national culture (for example, the value placed in holding in-person consultations) as driving forces in telemedicine expansion. The authors conclude that telemedicine adoption is widespread in Latin America but is not yet targeting the region's primary health needs.
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