Open health in Guatemala

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The FreeMED Software Foundation has been involved with a medical clinic and teaching project in Guatemala for some time. The project, hosted by Pop-Wuj, a non-profit Spanish language school in Xela (Quetzeltenango), Guatemala, hosts a medical clinic for the poor in the city and surrounding pueblos.

The project, through the efforts of Jonathan St George, MD who founded the idea, has been

brought to a self-sustaining and full-time staff level, with Meg Sullivan, MD staffing the clinic full-time for two years. It is a busy clinic and is supported by the efforts of Dr. St George and physicians, dentists, podiatrists, nurses, and other medical professionals from Weil Cornell and other New York Medical centers who come to teach and help staff the clinic. The idea for making it self-sustaining, as a possible model for additional projects, came through Dr. St George. There are volunteer physicians, dentists, EMT, nurses, podiatrists, and other health professionals who have expertise in international, expedition, or mountain medicine. They teach at Pop-Wuj so that a major portion of the tuition for the course is given to sustain activities of the clinic. I saw an additional need.

The clinic serves those without resources, but many have chronic and recurrent problems. Many are children. The records, kept on paper and without a professional records staff, soon fall into a state of oblivion with difficulty keeping up-to-date records on all but current patients. It is nearly impossible to follow some of the people who visit the facility. The difficulty in the remote clinics in the pueblos is magnified.

We needed a lightweight yet extensible system. FreeMED seemed to be the answer. FreeMED is an electronic medical record (EMR) and practice management (PM) system. Here in the United States it has an extenive billing system to fit the arcane needs of our system. FreeMED uses the GWT (Google Web Tools) platform. How will we implement FreeMED? What sorts of changes will need to be made to meet the needs in Guatemala?

FreeMED is multilingual by nature. Currently v0.8.6 has German, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, English, Polish, and French translations.

In Setptember 2010 we hope to be able to set up a donated server and allied equipment, train local people on how to use the system, and to find a local company to support FreeMED for the long term. Additionally we plan to roll out this EMR/ practice management system for use by local physicians, making an affordable and extensible medical record available to them.

FreeMED already uses the Android platform and is being developed to increase the availability of the mHeatlh application. The cellular network in Guatemala is extensively developed. We hope to be able to harness that power using the Android platform to allow communication and consultative telecommunication within FreeMED.

Follow our blog at, with pictures and stories daily from Guatemala starting September 19. If you have more interest, would like to donate some equipment (IT or medical), or wish to help further this project, please contact Irv Buchbinder's at Director at FreeMED dot net for more information. 

I'm a podiatrist practicing within an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center), a community health center serving as a safety net for the uninsured and under-insured in the United States.

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