06:45am Monday 01 June 2020

Penn Librarians and Doctors Team up to Help Guatemalan Patients

PHILADELPHIA – Patients in Guatemala will have a better chance of getting the right diagnosis and treatment now that the University of Pennsylvania Libraries has received funding for a project using smart phones and other mobile technologies to improve physicians’ access to clinical information in Guatemala.

The Penn mobile technology project will provide the Hospitalito Atitlán and its partner national hospital and health posts in Sololá, Guatemala with access to electronic medical information as well as direct contact with the expertise of Penn physicians in Philadelphia. For example, Guatemalan physicians will be able to use smart phones to take pictures of X-rays of their patients and send the photos to Penn physicians to obtain a second opinion on a diagnosis. They can also use the phones and other electronic devices to tap into extensive electronic medical databases and e-journals to get information on diseases and treatment options. Currently this capability is inadequate or non-existent in the area.

The project is being funded by the Elsevier Foundation, the philanthropic arm of one of the world’s largest scientific publishers, with more than 2,000 scientific, technical, and medical journals, including The Lancet.  The project was selected from 260 proposals worldwide.

“This grant will be a terrific addition to the projects we have already underway as part of the Guatemala-Penn Partnership,” said Brian L. Strom MD, senior advisor to the provost for global health initiatives, and director of the Penn Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “Technology is a vital part of how we practice medicine in the US, and patients in Guatemala will now have access to some of the same benefits as well.”  The Penn-Guatemala partnership is led by Charles Branas, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Penn.

The funding will enable a Penn team to first assess the Guatemalan hospital’s information and technology needs. Then the team will train physicians at the Guatemalan hospital on using technology in a variety of ways to improve patient care. The Guatemalan physicians will in turn train colleagues at community-based health posts surrounding the hospital.  The Penn team will also identify high-quality digital medical resources available in Spanish for both web and mobile formats.

“As librarians of a healing institution, we’re honored to play a direct part in helping improve care to needy residents in Guatemala” said Penn’s vice provost and director of libraries, Carton Rogers. “By working with Penn physicians, we can lend our expertise to their superb clinical skills for the betterment of the people of Sololá.”

The Penn team that will travel to Guatemala includes Anne K. Seymour, associate director of the Penn Biomedical Library, Kent Bream, MD, founding faculty director of the Penn Guatemala Health Initiative, Barbara Bernoff Cavanaugh, director of the Penn Biomedical Library, Carrie Kovarik, MD, assistant professor of dermatology, Doug Smullens, Penn Libraries IT systems manager, and Carlos Rodriguez, acting head of access services of the Penn Biomedical Library.

The Penn Libraries has previously conducted a similar project in Botswana.



Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4 billion enterprise. 

Penn’s School of Medicine is currently ranked #2 in U.S. News & World Report‘s survey of research-oriented medical schools and among the top 10 schools for primary care. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $507.6 million awarded in the 2010 fiscal year. 

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania – recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; and Pennsylvania Hospital – the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Penn Medicine also includes additional patient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2010, Penn Medicine provided $788 million to benefit our community.

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