Telemedicine is a one-way resource, which can improve Brazil’s healthcare bottlenecks, and technology is an ally for the sector and for the country’s economic development. These two topics dominated the discussion during the “Digital Transformation in Health: Country Challenges” event, sponsored by Microsoft, held on Tuesday (24/5) at Casa jota.
In an election year, representatives of presidential candidates and health-related parliamentarians were invited to discuss projects, opportunities and solutions for the country. Only President Jair Bolsonaro’s (PL) team, a former re-election candidate, did not accept the invitation.
A survey by the National Association of Private Hospitals (Anahp), released in April, indicates that four in 10 Brazilians (43%) disapprove of the country’s healthcare and that half of the population want the next government to prioritize “investments in technology and innovation”.
This event is an opportunity to discuss projects, opportunities and solutions for the country. Microsoft’s director of corporate affairs, Marcio Gonçalves, said technology is key to changing people’s lives and for economic recovery, as the pandemic has made clear.
The doctor, former Minister of Health and Federal MP Alexandre Padilla (PT), representative of former candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (PT) began the discussion by saying that telemedicine regulation should engage with the Unified Health System (SUS).
In April, the Chamber of Deputies approved PL 1998/2020, which regulates and defines the practice of telemedicine, or telehealth, with a decision by Representative Pedro Villala (PSDB-AL), who also participated in the event. The text covers all regulated health professions and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
“The technology is here to stay, the resistance has been overcome and we cannot be intimidated. But we have to discuss the ethical issues, the LGPD, discuss protecting our official system, we cannot have the data blackout we have today. Health for us is not an expense, it is an investment,” Padilla said. : “Digital health is an essential field.”
Villala stated that the PL text on telemedicine has the support of medical entities, the Ministry of Health and parliamentarians.
“My approved script makes this integration with SUS, which Padilla commented on. One of the main points of the PL is to expand access to health, and the other point is to ensure the independence of health professionals,” said the deputy, who is also a lawyer.
He also stressed that investment in technology is necessary to increase the efficiency of health management.
“If you talk to any health manager, talk a lot with mayors and governors, they all report how much efficiency and cost savings is achieved when you increase the reach of health services, when you have a quick diagnosis,” Villalla added.
Roberto Claudio (PDT), doctor, former mayor of Fortaleza and representative of former candidate Ciro Gomez (PDT), emphasized that the use of artificial intelligence is already a reality, but it is necessary to think about the remote areas of the country that do not have a technological structure.
Today we have many health units without any internet connection. We need to turn health into a policy to reverse inequalities, not deepen them. We need an infrastructure. As efficient as the technology is, it will not correct structural problems and the most serious is the lack of funding. We need to reverse this absurdity of the public spending ceiling, especially for investment in public health,” Claudio said.
Doctor Joao Gabardo, coordinator of the Scientific Committee to Combat Corona Virus in the Sao Paulo government and representative of the Public Security Directorate, said the epidemic has shown that telemedicine is necessary to overcome the crisis.
“We were also able to demonstrate that telemedicine could be another opportunity for clinicians. With teleconsultation in the pandemic, patients received a certificate and prescription, and the most dangerous patients were referred to another type of care. This helped preserve health workers.”
For Gabardo, the demand for care had already been suppressed before the pandemic and exacerbated thereafter. “We have giant eye care lines, for example, that are dedicating perhaps the biggest pent-up demand to him. And some of these patients have minor problems. We won’t be able to solve them without the help of technology and artificial intelligence.”
To make broad access to technology in health a reality, challenges must be overcome. “The SUS will have to adopt a position, on the part of the new federal government, of cooperation with states and municipalities, and not of confrontation as is the case now. We have four challenges: overcoming the epidemic, welcoming the problems caused by dams, enhancing national capacity for technological development and strengthening SUS. In all of them, technological innovation plays a big role,” Padilla said.
Labor also highlighted that the public policies of the SUS are a huge supporter of the country’s economy and technological development.
“When SUS makes a certain decision, it’s a big market, and it mobilizes investment capacity, mobilizes public universities, generates new jobs, and helps the country’s development,” he said.
Carmen Zanotto (Citizen), Nurse and Federal Representative, emphasized that telemedicine does not replace face-to-face care.
“It will never replace communication and human relations, which are two essential components of health. But we need to strengthen tele-consultations, ensure the quality of tools. It is the big challenge. We have many municipalities that do not have specialists, such as cardiologists.”
She also points to another major challenge that technology can help solve: the need for a single medical record. “Brazilian legislation already provides for data protection. According to our professional ethics, medical records are not shared via Whatsapp. Those who share need to be punished, what we cannot do is not give access to medical records and spend resources. The patient continues to take three blood tests, And pass two doctors, spend twice, and triple. Using technology will improve that.”