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In many parts of the world, addressing the digital divide isn’t just about advancing timely access to information—it’s truly a matter of life and death.
In remote and rural areas, the lack of a robust digital communications infrastructure greatly impacts healthcare access and the ability to deliver effective telemedicine solutions. Healthcare facilities in countries like Brazil, for example, face challenges administering a large volume of medical exams, efficiently transmitting this information to providers for evaluation, and then getting exam results to patients as quickly as possible so they can seek the follow-up treatment they need. In some cases, delays in this process have been tragic and even resulted in a patient’s death, according to Leonardo Melo, Founder and Executive Director of Diagnext, one of the first providers to specialize in telemedicine in Brazil.
That’s why Melo has set out on a mission to change this. In places where using advanced technologies to support sophisticated medical activities would be almost impossible, Diagnext is enabling medical care without technological or geographic boundaries.
Bringing Telemedicine Solutions to Brazil
Brazil lacked any formal telemedicine regulation until the pandemic. Melo explains that is because the telemedicine experience in Brazil has been traditionally impersonal and inefficient.
“Conventional distance medical care, at least in Brazil and Latin America, has proven to be far from the patient—taking away a necessary empathy between the doctor and the patient,” he says. “We try to maintain the form and humanity of a conventional service, inserting a dash of technology to make it closer and more efficient.”
Diagnext’s solutions allow healthcare facilities to deliver any medical exam right at the point of care. The process mimics traditional medical care at the beginning: A patient is taken to an exam room where a healthcare provider administers their test, such as an X-ray, ultrasound, or electrocardiogram. From there, exams are processed and sent to Diagnext’s equipment, which uses artificial intelligence, low-cost 3D modems, and satellite technology to compress and efficiently transmit information. The data is compressed to the extreme—up to 97% lossless compression is reached in environments where the maximum is always close to 50%, Melo says. It is then securely forwarded to remote healthcare professionals in the most efficient and optimized way possible.
“We try to maintain the form and humanity of a conventional service, inserting a dash of #technology to make it closer and more efficient” – Leonardo Melo, @diagnext via @insightdottech
Diagnext relies on Intel®-powered servers in its remote operations center to redistribute and funnel the data from medical exams to healthcare professionals for analysis. With the help of AI-based algorithms, Diagnext automatically decides the best path to route information so it can get to its intended destination as rapidly as possible—even in places with limited communications infrastructure. The company’s solutions are particularly critical in rural and remote areas in Brazil and Latin America that have limited access to technology or high-speed internet.
“The environment as a whole automatically evaluates the conditions of the communication structures based on the urgency of delivering the exam,” Melo says, adding that “the process can even be thought of as conventional telemedicine, but the difference is centered on the performance time,” which is up to 240 times faster compared to market standards. Employing this approach is also 60% cheaper for healthcare facilities to execute compared to traditional healthcare administration processes. It allows them to handle a much larger volume of consultations—the equivalent of thousands of exams a month, Melo says.
Advancing Healthcare Equity
Melo already sees Diagnext’s telemedicine solutions making a meaningful difference.
Working with government hospitals and clinics in the Amazon rainforest, Diagnext has delivered healthcare without borders and reduced exam transmission times from six hours to just two hours, he explains. As a result, clinicians provided mammograms to 52,000 women in a single year and administered 48,000 X-rays, contributing to more than 4,500 reassessments and nearly 150 cancer surgeries that have contributed to saving many lives.
The company’s solutions were also critical during the pandemic. When a major hospital system in São Paulo was overwhelmed and lacked the telecommunications infrastructure to meet demand, it worked with Diagnext and used Intel®-powered mobile phones to securely transmit exam data. Diagnext worked with the Red Cross in Brazil to efficiently process data after its systems broke down.
Melo says some large hospitals have experienced a similar situation because their systems lacked the capacity to handle a surge of medical data during the COVID-19 pandemic. In these situations, Diagnext has been able to step in and provide intelligent, AI-driven data compression capabilities to reorganize and deploy the data and free up capacity for mission-critical systems.
Diagnext is on a mission for everyone—regardless of their environment or location—to receive quality medical care, according to Melo. The company already is making significant strides to reshape the future of telemedicine. With the State of Amazonas, Diagnext plans to build the first integrated clinical exam data environment and use AI to analyze even more patient exams. In their first collaboration, government hospitals in the Amazonas were able to process 100,000 exams a year, but now the goal is to exceed that number. Melo says he hopes Diagnext will create an enduring legacy of expanding healthcare access to those who need it most.
“We are aiming to take our techniques, processes, project management, and methodologies, among others, to other corners of the world,” he says. “We are studying countries that have large populations and extreme public health needs. The idea is to bring health to those who need it wherever they are—with efficiency, effectiveness, quality, and affordable costs.”
This article was edited by Christina Cardoza, Associate Editorial Director for insight.tech.