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New Regulations for Telemedicine in Brazil

Posted on the 01 March 2019 by Angelicolaw @AngelicoLaw
New Regulations for Telemedicine in Brazil

Telemedicine, the practice of diagnosing and treating medical conditions using telecommunications equipment, is about to increase in Brazil. Telemedicine already exists in Brazil, but it is informal and unregulated. In February, the Brazilian National Medicine Council (CFM) revealed that it plans to introduce regulations that will formally allow for consultations, diagnostics and even surgeries to be performed using long-distance communication platforms.

Platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Facetime are currently used to make diagnoses. Patients can send photos of physical wounds to doctors or send copies of their test results to get medical advice. The services help reach patients in rural areas of Brazil where medical services are scarce and the cost of traveling to larger cities to get treated is too expensive.

In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, TelessaúdeRS provides eye exams and other services remotely to underserved regions where patients have difficulty obtaining medical services. The program counts eight centers staffed with qualified ophthalmologists and each equipped with cameras, computers and other equipment that help gauge patients' vision, eye pressure and refraction. The services lighten the load on in-person offices. For example, of the 14,000 people waiting to see an eye doctor, 5,000 were examined remotely. Of those 5,000, nearly two-thirds were from rural areas.

In the state of Amazonas in northern Brazil, two telehealth centers reached a total of 75,000 patients over five years. The Amazonas has the highest concentration of Brazil's indigenous population. Many residents live in remote regions where travel to the capital city of Manaus to see a doctor is both lengthy and costly. The centers are in the towns of São Gabriel de Cachoeira in the far northwest of the state and Barrerinha, approximately 400km from Manaus.

Improving regulations for telehealth services should help unite efforts already in place for patients in remote areas. As José Cechin of FenaSaúde, the Brazilian association of health insurance companies, commented, "Telemedicine was already practiced by many insurance companies. The only thing missing was the regulation."

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