Telemedicine is a Solution to Increasing Quality Healthcare Access for Mexican Orphanages

Introduction

Beam Healthcare recently began a partnership with Fundación Esperanza Contigo, A.C. The goal of this partnership is to provide greater access to quality healthcare for more than 200 children across four orphanages located in the city of Tijuana, Baja California. 

About Beam Healthcare

Beam Healthcare is a telemedicine clinical group providing specialist services to clinics, hospitals, and healthcare systems. Passionate about achieving healthcare equality through the use of telemedicine in communities, Dr. Sarjoo Patel, CEO of Beam Healthcare, also created BeamUp. BeamUp is a charitable organization with a mission to create opportunities and tackle the social determinants of health for communities in poverty

About Fundación Esperanza Contigo, A.C.

Fundación Esperanza Contigo (FEC) is an organization dedicated to empowering the future of children who reside in orphanages throughout Tijuana, Baja California. Baja California ranks second in Mexico, only after the capital, with the highest rate of abandoned children. It is estimated that there are more than 5,000 children in this situation in the state. Through their programs, FEC seeks to break the vicious cycles that orphans are often exposed to.

The orphanages provide children with shelter, clothing, food, and water. “These children have their basic needs met,” said Adrián Romero, Founder of FEC, “but what they don’t have is a brighter future.” To help empower these children to achieve their dreams, Adrián and his team have built a program to ensure that all the children are enrolled in school, have the necessary school supplies, and have safe and reliable transportation to school. FEC also offers after-school homework support and a mentorship program that helps the children develop a clear vision of how they want to change their lives and how they’re going to do it.

“That’s where I created the other program that’s related to entrepreneurship,” said Adrián. “We don’t want kids to just go to school and become factory workers. We want those kids to become engineers, developers, architects, doctors, and business owners. We want to help them understand that they can have the same opportunities as anybody else, they just need a clear roadmap.”

These programs have provided the children with wonderful resources and opportunities to succeed, but Adrián noticed that a lot of them were struggling to focus and perform well in school because of health-related issues. He said, “If we want these kids to work hard and dream big, we need to go back and make sure those kids are healthy.”

 

“We don’t want [children in FEC orphanages] to just go to school and become factory workers. We want those kids to become engineers, developers, architects, doctors, and business owners. ... If we want these kids to work hard and dream big, we need to go back and make sure those kids are healthy.”

Adrián Romero, Founder of FEC Tweet

Creating a Partnership

That’s when Adrián met Dr. Sarjoo Patel through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization network and reached out about forming a partnership. By the end of 2021, a partnership was formed with the goal of providing greater access to quality healthcare for the children.

FEC supports four orphanages throughout Tijuana that serve more than 200 children combined. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, these orphanages lost the majority of their funding. This put the orphanages in dire need, and many were struggling just to keep the lights on and the children fed. In most cases, there simply wasn’t enough money left over for the children to receive medical attention. 

Adrián Romero saw this critical situation unfolding and knew that he needed to help make a change. To make this vision a reality, Beam Healthcare’s charity, BeamUp, collaborated with FEC to install state-of-the-art telemedicine equipment, facilitate remote preventive health care, and enable general practitioners and specialists to contribute to the care of children.

Through the telemedicine teams and the network of physicians participating in the program, the children now have remote access to routine medical care. In addition, the technology enables the creation and management of digital clinical records that enable physicians and staff to monitor individual progress and development over time. 

Hiring a Change Champion

With any new program comes challenges, and in this case, a major challenge was getting enough consistent employees and volunteers on board to keep the program running smoothly. To address these challenges, Adrián hired Jessica de la Rosa, MD as the Director of the Telemedicine Program. 

Jessica was finishing up medical school at the Autonomous University of Baja California when Adrián reached out to her through a mutual friend. “Telemedicine wasn’t a topic in medical school,” said Jessica. “In the United States it’s common to encounter telemedicine, but here in Mexico it’s not. This opportunity to work with Adrián was even more relevant due to the pandemic, when doctors realized that we need to find ways to stay in touch with patients without neglecting our own health. I am one of the first doctors working with telemedicine here in Tijuana.”

Jessica decided to take this opportunity to not only work with emerging technologies, but also make a difference by helping children in need. One of Jessica’s first tasks at FEC was to hire doctors, and another was to find on-site volunteers. She was able to hire doctors relatively quickly due to her connections in the field, but due to the nature of the program where the physicians are providing remote care, they need to collaborate with an onsite volunteer who acts as a nurse to facilitate the e-visit. It was challenging to find volunteers at first, but now the program is gaining traction. 

Jessica said, “When I first started I had no team. But my team is getting bigger now, so I feel a big relief.” Throughout this hiring process, Flow Healthcare has also partnered with FEC to streamline the onboarding processes for physicians and volunteers. This platform allows Jessica to run background checks on potential employees and volunteers, while also providing the team members with the training that they need. Lastly, the system helps Jessica with team management by creating a schedule with the physicians’ availability so that the orphanages know when they’re available to see patients.

"[The children at the orphanages] see now that there’s an immediate reaction if somebody gets hurt or sick, when before it wasn’t like that. It’s been a good change for them.”

Dr. Jessica de la Rosa, Director of the Telemedicine Program Tweet

Current State of the Program

When the telemedicine technology was first implemented in the orphanages, the children were apprehensive about visiting a doctor through a screen. Furthermore, they weren’t used to preventive healthcare. They would say, “I feel okay, why do I have to see a doctor? Let me go back to play with my friends.” 

Now, after several months of working with the program, it’s becoming part of their normal routine. “They know that they’re going to have their quarterly checkup,” said Adrián. “They all get in line to see the doctor, and they’re beginning to value the work that we’re doing for them. They see now that there’s an immediate reaction if somebody gets hurt or sick, when before it wasn’t like that. It’s been a good change for them.” Jessica has also been pleased with the childrens’ adoption of this program. She said, “There was definitely a learning curve for everybody involved, but as for the kids, they aren’t afraid of doctors anymore. That’s a victory.”

The caregivers at the orphanages are also excited about this new program. They feel that they now have the tools and resources to help the children in a structured way. Now there are processes in place, they can schedule appointments, they have documentation and electronic files, and they have access to tests and medicine. It gives them the confidence that they don’t have to worry about the childrens’ health – now they can focus on caring for the children and their basic needs. 

Vision Moving Forward

“My vision moving forward is for each child to have at least 4 consults per year,” said Jessica. In Q2 of this year, the program launched in one of the four orphanages. In Q3, it was expanded to all four. “Now we are fully operational in four orphanages,” said Adrián, “and we are focused on sustaining these operations for the rest of the year. We are looking at building a network of local clinics and hospitals to add additional healthcare services for the children. We are also working with local companies trying to find new sponsors so that we can potentially expand to more orphanages at the beginning of next year. We are thankful to have the commitment on Beam’s end to continue supporting the program as it grows.”

Sarjoo said, “In the short term we’re going to be monitoring the program and we have some quality metrics that are put into place. The program has to provide better preventivehealthcare and better psychiatric support to these kids. And in the long term, we want to create opportunities. We look forward to seeing what this technology will do to help improve children’s quality of life by providing easier access to healthcare. The goal is to provide the children with healthcare, education, and all of their basic needs so that they can succeed as they grow older.

Get Involved

You can help support this program and missions in other communities around the world by partnering with Fundación Esperanza Contigo and BeamUp. Both organizations are in need of volunteers, and any monetary donations are also greatly appreciated to directly support the operations of the programs. 

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