Coalition launched to provide telehealth services to underserved areas

By Eric Wicklund
10:01 AM

A number of heavy hitters in the healthcare field are joining forces with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to launch an initiative aimed at providing medical reference and decision support technology to underserved regions around the world.

Formally launched Monday night at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco, the Health eVillages coalition is the brainchild of Donato Tramuto, founding partner, CEO and vice chairman of Physicians Interactive Holdings, a Marlborough, Mass.-based developer and supplier of healthcare information and mobile decision support tools. The group has already conducted pilot projects in several areas, including Haiti, Uganda, Kenya and portions of the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Tramuto said he came upon the idea for Health eVillages shortly after the Haitian earthquake of 2010. He said he had passed along about a dozen mobile medical devices to Kerry Kennedy, the RFK Center’s president, who was travelling to the Caribbean to assist in relief efforts.

Those medical devices, he said, proved to be life-savers.

“The reaction as incredible,” said Tramuto. “I began to wonder, if this is happening in Haiti, where else do they have these deficiencies?”

Tramuto said Health eVillages’ goal is to provide new and refurbished mobile phones and handheld devices that don’t require Internet access and which are pre-loaded with clinical decision support reference tools, giving caregivers in remote locations access to updated medical references.

While Tramuto and Kennedy – whom Tramuto calls “a beacon” – will oversee Health eVillages projects, they’ll be advised by a board of healthcare executives, all of whom have pledged personal of company donations to the effort. The board consists of:

  • Glen Tullman, CEO of Allscripts;
  • Alexander Baker, chief operating officer of Partners Community Healthcare
  • John Boyer, chairman of the board of directors for Maximus Federal Services
  • Steve Andrzejewski, former CEO of NycoMed
  • Mary Jane England, former president of Regis College; and
  • Neil Versel, a freelance journalist.

“For four decades, the RFK Center has been working on the cutting edge of social change with human rights activists around the world,” said Kennedy in a press release. “Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right to healthcare. With this new program, we’re harnessing the capacity of cutting-edge technology to bring healthcare to the neediest people on this earth – people in Kenya, Haiti, Mexico and in the poorest places of the United States.”

Tramuto said he expects more telehealth resources – in the United States and abroad – to join in the coalition, offering new tools and technology. And while telehealth projects have been slow to catch on in this country, he expects Health eVillages to advance the technology in parts of the world where it will literally mean the difference between life and death.

“I don’t think it’s innovation that’s going to be the problem,” he said.