News & Press

Puerto Rico Public Health Trust launches Telehealth program for elderly adults

The Puerto Rico Public Health Trust, a program of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, announced the launch of the Telemedicine for Elderly Adults (TMEA) program.

The initiative, which uses TytoCare technology, aims to develop and implement Telemedicine and Telehealth services in long-term care facilities, or homes for the elderly and nursing homes.

It consists of the installation of specialized equipment to remotely facilitate access to medical services “in a fast, cost-effective, and safe manner, especially in times of COVID-19,” the Health Trust stated.

“Our priority is that elderly adults residing in care centers can have access to their doctors so that they do not neglect their health and can continue their treatments,” said Jorge M. Acevedo-Canabal, TMEA director and Chief Medical Officer of the Health Trust.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we do medicine and now it will be necessary for medicine to be the one that reaches the patients,” he said.

The Telehealth program was created in 2020, with a $2.7 million grant from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), through the Puerto Rico Department of Health. The project provides training, equipment, and technical support to participating centers and is free of charge for two years.

TytoCare-brand equipment is used to provide the service, consisting of a kit of hand-held examination devices that includes a mobile application to connect certified physicians 24/7 and enable telemedicine and telehealth in the care centers.

This technology, which can be used on Android and iOS devices, differs from other apps in that it can accurately perform a physical exam. It can also help diagnose and treat ear infections, sore throat, fever, cold and flu, allergies, conjunctivitis, nausea, constipation, asthma, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, insect bites and common skin conditions such as contact dermatitis, rash, and diaper rash, the providers said.

The quality of the equipment and devices enables it to provide physicians with high quality digital heart and lung sounds, digital images and video of the ears, throat, and skin. In addition, it measures heart rate and body temperature. Diagnosis and prescription can be done anytime, anywhere.

The program has five employees in Puerto Rico, 150 care centers participating and the Health Trust has delivered 50 devices throughout the island. Furthermore, it reaches 3,000 patients and continues to recruit long-term centers to achieve a total of 200 facilities that provide health access to older adults.

“We believe in Telemedicine as an engine to democratize access to healthcare. Innovation and technology have a fundamental role to play in achieving that goal, especially in the pandemic that afflicts people who cannot leave their homes freely,” said Sebastian Vidal, Chief Innovation Officer of the Science Trust.

“We chose TytoCare’s technology to be able to deploy Telemedicine in places commonly difficult to reach,” he said. “Telemedicine is here to stay and we’re proud to be the entity that is leading this modality in Puerto Rico.”

As administrators of TytoCare in Puerto Rico, the Trust will develop strategies for the Telehealth Program that include activities and educational interventions to train groups of people in a variety of topics on disease prevention, protection, and health promotion.

In addition, training will be provided to caregivers in charge of handling the equipment so that they can assist older adults during their medical appointment if necessary.

“This service will allow us to promote the wellbeing and health of our elderly, who are the most vulnerable population, and we all have the responsibility to take care of them,” said Health Trust Director José F. Rodríguez-Orengo. “That’s why we reiterate our commitment to continue with our mission to achieve health equity in our communities.”