The Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust and the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust announced the start of a pilot project to establish local telemedicine and telehealth programs, with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.
With the funding, the nonprofits will buy specialized equipment that will allow remote health services to be offered in the Castañer communities in Lares, Florida, Rincón, Arroyo, Las Marías, Maricao and Culebra.
The Puerto Rico Public Health Trust’s telemedicine program has joined forces and established collaborations with providers, payers and health service administrator to offer medical services to people who live in remote communities and need specialized medical services, it said.
The Health Department, the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, the 330 Centers, AARP Puerto Rico, and public, private and nonprofit organizations have contributed their knowledge and experience to develop a project to address the problem of lack of access to health services in Puerto Rico, Health Trust Acting Director José F. Rodríguez-Orengo said.
“After hurricanes of 2017 in Puerto Rico, the fragility of the health system and the need for access to medical specialists were exposed,” he said.
“In Puerto Rico, getting an appointment with a specialist doctor can take more than three months. This time is critical for those people who suffer from multiple chronic and complex conditions, in which the accurate diagnosis and proper treatment and in time can save the patient’s life,” Rodríguez-Orengo said.
“A real solution to tackle and solve this problem is telemedicine,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wendy Matos-Negrón, who runs the new telemedicine program, said her main objective will be to reduce the waiting time so that people can receive services by specialized physicians on time.
“The most important thing is that those people who lack financial resources, a medical plan and transportation can be treated remotely in their health service center, where they are usually treated,” she said.
As part of the Health Trust’s initiatives, a telehealth program will be launched to offer educational activities and interventions on some 10 health-related subjects on to how to prevent diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle in vulnerable communities.
This service will expand the knowledge and scope of health services where schools, community centers, health facilities and communities will be impacted. The telehealth program is a way to remotely train and educate groups of people on various topics on disease prevention, protection and health promotion, the nonprofit’s officials said.