Telehealth Takes Reconstructive Surgery Global

September 27, 2017 By InTouch Health

Healthcare for the indigenous people of remote Latacunga, Ecuador hasn’t changed much since the height of the Incan empire in the 1500s. But now telehealth is proving to be a successful tool for preoperative assessments of cleft lip and palate patients in the Latacunga area.

In a recent study published in The Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal, researchers found that remote evaluations were as effective as in-person exams of reconstructive surgery candidates in Latacunga. There was a 95.7 percent agreement in cleft lip assessments between the remote and on-site physicians.

The Lancet’s Commission on Global Surgery estimates that nearly one-third of all disabilities and deaths worldwide are the result of surgically treatable conditions. When left untreated, cleft lip and palate conditions contribute significantly to both patient morbidity and mortality.

The Latacunga telehealth research was funded in part by Hands Across The World, a Natick, Massachusetts-based nonprofit that provides reconstructive surgical care in rural Ecuador. For more than a decade, the organization has partnered with the divisions of plastic surgery at the University of Massachusetts and Hartford Hospital/University of Connecticut.

The Latacunga research shows that telehealth has the power to transform global philanthropy. The technology holds enormous promise for organizations like Project Smile, which has performed hundreds of thousands of reconstructive facial surgeries around the world. And it may soon be a vital tool for multibillion-dollar nonprofits like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Roughly two billion people on earth have access to essential surgical care, while five billion do not. Telehealth is helping to flip those dire numbers.