e-KSS, an international non-profit, has been working for almost a decade with the largest Amazon indigenous federation (Federação das Organizações Indígenas do Rio Negro – FOIRN) to develop culturally-appropriate and self-sustainable healthcare solutions for the Amazon’s indigenous people. It has successfully established the first-ever indigenous people’s telehealth network, allowing indigenous communities to use BGAN satellite to aggregate, own, and access their own health data. e-KSS is now embarking on the next level of connectivity – live telemedicine. e-KSS will be partnering with VSee simple telemedicine platform to provide video telemedicine to these indigenous people groups.
VSee CEO Milton Chen says, “We are grateful to be a part of this effort to create self-sustainable healthcare for Brazil’s indigenous peoples. I truly believe in the impact of technology for social change. VSee has been used to make healthcare accessible to refugees in Iraq, burn and domestic violence victims in Southeast Asia, and villagers in the Himalayas. We’re excited to help improve healthcare for these very isolated people groups.”
VSee provides peer-to-peer low-bandwidth video that works over satellite broadband and 3G networks for rural and inaccessible areas of the world. It is being used in space by NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station and in India’s Himalayan mountains for telemedicine consultations. VSee also features plug-and-play live streaming of medical devices such as digital ultrasound, otoscope, and EKG during a remote video doctor consultation.
Infant Mortality Rates at Nearly 10% in the Amazon
The healthcare situation for Brazil’s indigenous people is tenuous. These Amazon indigenous peoples have traditionally lacked control over their own health care data and lacked access to culturally appropriate health services, resulting in high infant and maternal mortality rates. Child mortality rates reach almost 10% for infants and children. Under the United Nations’ country classification per mortality rates, the region would sit at an appalling 178 out of 198 —comparable to African nations. Healthcare professionals are few and far between. Remote health outposts are inadequate, and non-existent triage procedures force patients to make difficult and unnecessary trips to urban health clinics. At the urban health clinic, patient and family are often introduced to diseases foreign to their community due to the extended exposure to the urban setting.
Telehealth Empowers Brazil’s 40K Indigenous Peoples
With 87% of births delivered at home, the need for connectivity in these remote communities is paramount. Telehealth is opening the door to 40,000 Amazon indigenous people to receive healthcare and health education in a timely manner.
Since last year, they have been doing health data collection using BGAN terminals and connecting their laptops to transfer data collected at health outposts. MS excel files are created by each Indigenous Telehealth Agent following a standard template developed by FOIRN/e-KSS and then populated with collected data.
This communication is sent to FOIRN’s Women’s Department where it goes into a newly established information database for each connected community. The data belongs to the connected community and it neighboring villages.
With the establishment of this telehealth project, the Women’s Department has reported motivation levels soaring within the indigenous communities. This unprecedented ownership and control of health data has given them hope and a belief in their ability to improve their community’s health. They see how they can increase their own knowledge and how they can take steps towards better health outcomes. In particular, it empowers women through greater connectivity, closing the circle between mothers-to-be, midwives and healthcare professional in referral networks.
e-KSS Executive Director Luiz Esteves says, “ the capacity to provide the indigenous peoples with a simple yet powerful telehealth tool opens the door for e-KSS to revolutionize healthcare service provision in the Amazon rainforest.”