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33 entities taking part in Puerto Rico Public Health Trust telemedicine initiative

The Puerto Rico Public Health Trust announced the start of its Telemedicine Distance Education, consisting of virtual training and delivery of equipment to more than 30 clinics located in rural areas of the island.

The project comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded a $1.1 million grant for distance training and telemedicine and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services relaxed the use of telehealth services during the COVID-19 emergency, the program under the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust confirmed.

The Science Trust works with the Department of Health to develop telemedicine in Puerto Rico.

“We developed a robust network of specialists, with providers to choose from at the regional and national level, in order to meet the particular health needs of the population and in compliance with the requirements of the Puerto Rico health system,” said Wendy Matos, director of the Telemedicine program.

“This ecosystem will be the foundation for the new era of health. Telemedicine is here to stay and will forever change the way medicine is made and health services are provided in Puerto Rico,” she said.

Appointments with specialists currently take four to six months to confirm, depending on the area of expertise. Between 40% and 60% of these appointments are missed, since people do not go because they forget, due to the long waiting period, the nonprofit said.

“This represents a delay in receiving services, complications from untreated conditions, and unnecessary expenses for both physicians and patients,” the nonprofit said.

The Health Trust’s Telemedicine program seeks to provide access to medical services and reduce waiting time, per appointment, to 45 days.

“Telemedicine increases people’s overall sense of well-being. This initiative will help patients in Puerto Rico to be treated for chronic and pre-existing conditions in a timely manner, which will allow for a reduction in morbidity and mortality on the Island,” said José F. Rodríguez Orengo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust.

As part of the Telemedicine project, training will be offered in each of the centers to the team that will participate in this initiative including doctors, nurses, the IT professional and administrator. 

In addition, bi-weekly meetings will be held to discuss pressing issues regarding the need for services, clinic scheduling, provider network and service evaluation.

The list of institutions that will receive aid through the program includes:

  • Castañer General Hospital in Lares;
  • Castañer Polyclinic in Jayuya;
  • Primary Health Care Centers in Florida;
  • Costa Salud Community Health Center in Rincón;
  • Julio Palmieri Family Health Center in Arroyo;
  • Migrant Health Center in Las Marías;
  • Migrant Health Center in Maricao;
  • Health ProMed in Culebra;
  • Camuy Health Services in Camuy;
  • Centro Integrado de Servicios de Salud in Lares;
  • Salud Integral en la Montaña in Orocovis;
  • PryMed in Vega Baja;
  • HealthPromed in Vieques;
  • Migrant Health Center in Yauco;
  • Asomante Medical Group in Aibonito;
  • PHM Multisalud, SISO in Aguadilla;
  • ACO del Norte in Hatillo;
  • QAM, Anchor Health in Bayamón;
  • Family Medicine Group in Carolina;
  • Fajardo Group Practice in Fajardo;
  • PHM Multisalud in Guayama;
  • SISO (CIMA HMO) in Isabela;
  • Grupo Unido de Médicos del Este (GUMET) in Humacao;
  • Access Medical Group in Manatí;
  • Hostos Medical Group in Mayagüez;
  • Ponce Advance Medical Group in Ponce;
  • Grupo Médico Omega in San Germán; and,
  • Costa Este Medical Services in Fajardo.

The Puerto Rico Public Health Trust received $500,000 from the USDA in 2019 to start the Telemedicine project, which was used to provide equipment and training at 13 service points in seven organizations. 

The recently awarded $1.1 million grant is in addition to that effort and will be used for the installation of equipment and training in remote locations that meet the requirements of poverty status, distance, and location of service centers, the nonprofit confirmed.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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