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Direct Relief often contracts with freelance photographers who usually, but not always, allow their work to be published by Direct Relief’s media partners. Contact Direct Relief for permission to use images in which Direct Relief is not credited in the caption by clicking here.

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For any additional questions about republishing Direct Relief content, please email the team here.

World Telehealth Initiative Formed to Bring World-Class Care to Communities Globally

Initiative will connect doctors and specialists to care providers in medically underserved areas.



Many communities around the world have a shortage of doctors and specialists needed to treat local patients. A new telehealth initiative aims to connect surgeons, doctors and specialists with local care providers, expanding expertise and training globally. (Direct Relief photo)

The World Telehealth Initiative (WTI) today announced its formation as a nonprofit organization with the goal of leveraging telehealth technology to bring top medical experts to underserved communities all over the world where core health services would otherwise be unavailable.

The World Telehealth Initiative has also announced InTouch Health, the leading enterprise telehealth platform, and Direct Relief, the largest provider of charitable medicines in the United States, as partner organizations in the fight to bring care to communities across the globe. The organizations will work together to bring supplies, clinicians, technology, and better access to quality care to populations in dire need.

“By leveraging the innovative technology at InTouch Health, we plan to focus on saving and improving as many lives as possible through the Initiative’s work and those we partner with,” said Sharon Allen, Executive Director of the World Telehealth Initiative. “Through our past collaborations with Direct Relief and InTouch Health, we’ve already successfully begun three programs in Bangladesh, Malawi and Haiti. Uniting the World Telehealth Initiative with InTouch Health and Direct Relief demonstrates our global scalability and the operability of the technology to provide relief efforts and services to communities that would otherwise not have the same access to quality care.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 billion people cannot obtain the health services they need because those services are either inaccessible, unavailable, unaffordable, or of poor quality. In addition, the world faces a shortfall of more than 7.2 million health workers. Although strategies to recruit, train, and develop the health workforce are improving, they are often not rapid enough to keep pace with population growth. This is compounded by difficulties in deploying health workers to rural, remote, and impoverished areas.

Given the company’s unique network of technology and clinical expertise, InTouch Health has an unprecedented ability to help the World Telehealth Initiative solve these critical healthcare problems. InTouch Health will donate virtual care devices and the InTouch Telehealth Network to enable virtual access to physician specialists. Additionally, all physicians who use InTouch Health to provide virtual care can volunteer their time or expertise to ensure the World Telehealth Initiative is a success.

“The World Telehealth Initiative is embarking on a core humanitarian cause to bring specialists to patients in areas of need throughout the world, and I’m thrilled InTouch Health and Direct Relief can help bring this to life,” said Yulun Wang, PhD, Founder, Chairman, and Chief Innovation Officer at InTouch Health and WTI Chairman. “Rather than providing episodic support relying on traditional modes of transportation, WTI will enable sustained support by leveraging telehealth to bring clinical expertise to the regions it assists.”

Since 2000, Direct Relief has provided more than $3.4 billion in essential healthcare and medical resources in over 85 countries (1). Some of the notable relief efforts include Hurricane Katrina (2005), the 2011 African Famine, West Africa Ebola Outbreak (2014), the Syrian Refugee Crisis (2011-17), Hurricane Harvey (2017) and many more. Direct Relief is also one of few nonprofits who have a perfect score on Charity Navigator, a top charity watchdog aimed at informing intelligent giving.

“We are privileged to have the World Telehealth Initiative and InTouch Health as our allies in the fight for better global healthcare,” said Andrew MacCalla, Director of International Programs and Emergency Response at Direct Relief and WTI board member. “Our goal with this partnership is to provide medical expertise to support people in need across all regions of the world. By combining forces, we can bring both the appropriate medical supplies and highly trained specialists to help more people who lack access to critical medical expertise.”

The World Telehealth Initiative is already seeing success with its telehealth program at a fistula care center in Malawi. The nonprofit, in partnership with InTouch Health and Direct Relief, has aided in the treatment of over 200 women with 150 diagnoses, 82 surgeries, and 250 lab tests, all which would have been left inadequately treated if it wasn’t for the implementation of a telehealth system. The practitioner at the fistula care center is able to communicate with experts from premier medical facilities in the United States to collaborate on diagnoses, surgical procedures, and further care plans. These women have already had their lives transformed with successful surgeries and care resulting from the program.

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