Telemedicine during the Covid-19 pandemic: the case of Uruguay

Keywords: telemedicine, covid-19, telephone, Uruguay


Telemedicine has been an important resource for achieving universal health coverage and mitigating access problems. The health crisis that arose as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic poses the challenge of increasing its incorporation and appropriation by users. This paper describes the use of telemedicine in Uruguay in the context of the pandemic, analysing the regulatory framework and the perception of health system users. Methods: We used information collected through interviews with qualified informants linked to the health system and two surveys, 2020 and 2021, on health and access to medical care during the pandemic in Uruguay. Results: During the health crisis, almost half of consultations were implemented through telemedicine. However, both users and institutions recognised that this modality was mainly carried out through telephone consultations, with great heterogeneity among providers. One of the possible problems of telemedicine refers to who defines the modality: the physician, the patient or the health centre, or whether it should be defined jointly. The survey results show that the consultation modality was mainly defined by users. Patients with chronic non-communicable diseases and those older than 54 years were among those who used non-face-to-face consultations the most. Conclusions: Telemedicine allowed for continuity of care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Uruguay. However, the surveys conducted and the available data show disparities in its use related to age, gender and health coverage, indicating that although it has potential, special attention should be paid to the supply and demand barriers that may arise in its implementation.


World Health Organization. A Health Telematics Policy in Support of WHO's Health-for-all Strategy for Global Health Development: Report of the WHO Group Consultation on Health Telematics 1997;11:e16 December, Geneva. Available at: accessed 6 November 2022.

OMS, Organización Mundial de la Salud. Marco de implementación de un servicio de telemedicina. Ed. David Nortillo Ortiz. 2016. Available at: accessed 6 November 2022.

Hasselfeld B, Hughes HK, Canino R, Sisson SD. A simple way to identify patients who need tech support for telemedicine. Harvard Business School Cases. 2022;Jan 01; P1. Available at: accessed 6 November 2022.

Ortega G, Rodriguez JA, Maurer LR, et al. Telemedicine, COVID-19, and disparities: policy implications. Health Policy Technol 2020;9(3):368-371. Available at: DOI: accessed 6 November 2022.

MSP. La construcción del Sistema Nacional Integrado de Salud 2005-2009. 2010. Available at: accessed 6 November 2022.

Ferre Z, Gerstenblüth M, González C, Noboa C, Triunfo P. Encuesta sobre salud y acceso a cuidados médicos durante la pandemia en Uruguay. Rev Med Urug (Montev) 2021;37(3). DOI:

Ferre Z, Gerstenblüth M, González C, Noboa C, Triunfo P. Informe Segunda Encuesta sobre salud y acceso a cuidados médicos durante la pandemia en Uruguay. Documento de Trabajo 14/21, Departamento de Economía, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, UdelaR. 2021. Available at: accessed 6 November 2022.

Bethlehem J. Selection bias in web surveys. Int Stat Rev 2010;78(2):161-188. DOI:

Kolenikov S. Calibrating survey data using iterative proportional fitting (raking). Stata J 2014;14(1):22–59. DOI:

Mercer A, Lau A and Kennedy C. For Weighting Online Opt-In Samples, What Matters Most? Pew Research Center Methods 2018. Available at: accessed 6 November 2022.

Hollander JE, Carr BG. Virtually perfect? Telemedicine for COVID-19. New Engl J Med 2020;382(18):1679-1681. DOI:

Lee AK, Cho RH, Lau EH, et al. Mitigation of head and neck cancer service disruption during COVID-19 in Hong Kong through telehealth and multi-institutional collaboration. Head Neck 2020;42(7):1454-1459. DOI:

Dinesen B, Nonnecke B, Lindeman D, et al. Personalized telehealth in the future: a global research agenda. J Med Internet Res 2016;18(3);e5257. DOI:

Neubeck L, Hansen T, Jaarsma T, Klompstra L, Gallagher R. Delivering healthcare remotely to cardiovascular patients during COVID-19: a rapid review of the evidence. Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs 2020; 19(6), 486-494. DOI:

Smith AC, Thomas E, Snoswell CL, et al. Telehealth for global emergencies: Implications for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). J Telemed Telecare 2020;26(5),309-313. DOI:

Chá GMM. Telemedicina: su rol en las organizaciones de salud. Rev Med Urug (Montev) 2020;36(4):411-417. DOI:

Li P, Liu X, Mason E, et al. How telemedicine integrated into China’s anti-COVID-19 strategies: case from a National Referral Center. BMJ Health Care Inform 2020;27(3). DOI:

Dorsey ER, Topol EJ. Digital medicine: Telemedicine 2020 and the next decade. Lancet 2020;395(10227), 859. DOI:

Chou E, Hsieh YL, Wolfshohl J, Green F, Bhakta T. Onsite telemedicine strategy for coronavirus (COVID-19) screening to limit exposure in ED. Emerg Med J 2020;37(6),335-337. DOI:

Contreras CM, Metzger GA, Beane JD, Dedhia PH, Ejaz A, Pawlik TM. Telemedicine: patient-provider clinical engagement during the COVID-19 Pandemic and beyond. J Gastrointest Surg 2020;24(7),1692-1697. DOI:

D’almeida F, Margot D. La evolución de las telecomunicaciones móviles en América Latina y el Caribe. BID Invest 2018;4(54);1-54. Available at:: accessed 6 November 2022.

AGESIC. Estudio sobre conocimientos, actitudes y prácticas de ciudadanía digital. 2020. Available at: accessed 6 November 2022.

How to Cite
Ferre, Z., Gerstenblüth, M., González, C., Noboa, C., & Triunfo, P. (2022). Telemedicine during the Covid-19 pandemic: the case of Uruguay. Journal of the International Society for Telemedicine and EHealth, 10, e4 (1-6).
Original Research