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Brazil’s burgeoning inland cities offer rich digital health pickings
By Gustavo Meirelles  |  Aug 31, 2023
Brazil’s burgeoning inland cities offer rich digital health pickings
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The hardships of providing healthcare services in a socioeconomically limited area can be key to unlocking the value of innovative solutions, and Northeast Brazil’s Pernambuco is an informative case study in this regard, says radiologist and healthcare exec Dr Gustavo Meirelles.

SERRA TALHADA, BRAZIL - Serra Talhada, situated in the sertão (dryland) near the center of the northeastern state of Pernambuco, is located 411 kilometers (255.4 miles) from the state capital of Recife. This city lapped by the Pajeú River teems with opportunities for entrepreneurs and is the birthplace of great names dating back throughout Pernambuco’s history. One still sees people riding horses on cobbled streets and traditional bank customers forming kilometer-long lines to visit the tellers, but it is also not surprising to find one or two of these people using smartwatches or airpods.

This heterogeneity regarding familiarity with technological resources - which is also combined with socioeconomic and educational limitations - guarantees a whole set of difficulties in providing care of any nature to this population. While some converse masterfully with chatbots and confirm their diagnostic service appointments via web check-in, others stumble due to illiteracy - although this does not prevent them from using WhatsApp - but they do tend to get lost in automated centers when trying to establish communication by sending only voice messages.

The city’s resources are hardly scarce, either for the population or for providers. With a thriving and welcoming economy and distant eyes directed toward the city after Cangaço - a banditry movement at the end of the 19th century and start of the 20th in Brazil’s northeastern region - won the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and finished second in São Paulo, money, much of which is still in the form of cash, circulates freely and makes the region attractive for various types of investment, with an even greater emphasis on healthcare.

All this helps explain why Serra Talhada has become the fourth medical hub in the state of Pernambuco, with two regional hospitals, public services with specialist care, and a private network full of doctors - the number of whom is increas

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