A Colombian soldier survived serious injuries thanks to the communication between doctors in Bogotá with specialists from other countries.

A 22-year-old Colombian soldier was torn between life and death after suffering serious injuries in a confrontation with guerrillas in the Guaviare jungle.

He was transferred to the Military Hospital in Bogotá, whose chief of surgery, William Sánchez, asked the opinions of experts from various countries on how to approach the treatment. Dr. Sánchez gave his colleagues details of the injuries suffered by the soldier in his abdominal region, colon, pancreas, liver and intestines, complicated by a generalized infection. The consultation was made in real time through a teleconference that connected universities and hospitals in several countries.

Once the case was raised, the doctors gave their opinion and a consensus was reached. The soldier - whose name was not disclosed because in Colombia it is forbidden to identify patients from the Military Hospital, as explained by Dr. Sánchez - survived thanks to the contributions made by doctors from the American universities of Miami, Florida and Oregon; to the Brazilians of Sao Paulo, Campinas and Amazonas; that of Santo Tomás, in Panama; the Istanbul Trauma Hospital and the US Advance Center in Iraq, among others.

“The great advantage is that everyone contributes from the experience of each country. It is an interdisciplinary consultation to make a single decision, ”explained Dr. Sánchez.

That of the Colombian soldier is not an isolated case. Consultations between experts from different countries, who offer vital advice to sometimes isolated and under-resourced sites, help save lives.

Professional doctor in a smartphone giving a consultation online and checking a radiography, telemedicine and healthcare concept, blank copy space

The experts are not physically together, but they see each other, speak and exchange information through a video teleconference that serves as a vehicle for specialists from the most advanced countries - such as the United States - to contribute their knowledge.

The Hospital Militar de Bogotá, for example, participates in a network that connects 12 universities and hospitals in the Americas with some three dozen centers in Europe and Asia. The teleconferences are coordinated by a moderator from the Ryder Traumatology Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami.

“There is no cost for calls or consultations. It is a purely altruistic, humanitarian and academic action ”of knowledge exchange, said Dr. Sánchez, who created the network together with his Brazilian colleague Antonio Marttos, director of the telemedicine area of the Ryder Center.

He clarified that the help is free for the centers that are part of the network. The requirement to belong to this is to be a postgraduate educational center with training of specialists in trauma and emergency surgery.

The Ryder Center also coordinates a virtual emergency room that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in which telephone operators connect doctors from other countries - including Colombia, Panama and Brazil - with colleagues from the United States . Consultations from centers that are not part of the network are also accepted, for which there is a charge.

The Florida Center said the costs of emergency consultations are reimbursed to members of the network, but declined to disclose how much they cost to those who are not part of it.

To participate in telemedicine sessions, Latin American hospitals need to make an initial investment of about $ 10,000 in equipment and about $ 70 a month for maintenance, said Dr. Sánchez.

Through telemedicine, doctors in the United States serve in real time, through television screens, computers and robots, patients who are in hospitals thousands of kilometers away, hold medical meetings with colleagues and offer second opinions in connected offices in line by technology.

“There are many situations in which in remote places (in Latin America) we do not have all the specialists available. So with this technology we can help doctors who are alone to have a friendly face (in the United States) to discuss cases, "said Dr. Marttos.