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New International Program Brings UI Health's Care To Uruguay

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In January, a 38-year-old woman and her husband flew from their home in Uruguay to Chicago to receive a second opinion from physicians at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System about a lesion that had formed in a cavity of the woman's lung. Every aspect of the trip-including the couples' visas, transportation, accommodations and the woman's care-was arranged by the new International Program-South America that UI Health launched last December.

"Although we receive occasional patients from other countries, Uruguay is the first country that has a dedicated program," says Jeff Finesilver, assistant vice president for operations.

The South American program provides second opinions for patients with complex medical conditions and, when needed, arranges for them to travel to Chicago to receive care at UI Health. In addition, the program is establishing educational partnerships with South American medical schools.

"Patients in Latin America normally don't have access to the kind of care that patients in the U.S. have, but now they can receive it through the University of Illinois," says Juan Litvan, MD, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine and director of Latin America Health.


Dividing his time between the Uruguayan cities of Montevideo and Maldonado, Dr. Litvan is uniquely suited to head the international program. A native of Uruguay who speaks Spanish and Portuguese, he trained at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Illinois Masonic Medical Center and worked as a hospitalist at St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford, Mass., before joining UI Health.

The scope of clinical care the program offers includes internal medicine, robotic surgery, organ transplant, neurology, oncology, orthopaedics, infertility, pediatrics and pulmonary medicine. Litvan provides an initial point of contact for patients, and then consults via email and teleconferencing with UI Health specialists to determine if they can manage the patient's condition remotely or if a trip to Chicago is needed. In the latter case, the UI Health International Program handles all aspects of the trip.

Litvan notes that UI Health's leadership in adopting an electronic medical system years ago enhances the program's abilities by allowing for an immediate exchange of each patient's clinical information between Uruguay and Chicago in a secure, protected way, allowing a unique local follow-up.

He is establishing relationships with local medical schools and hospitals, and in partnership with the Center for Global Health, also plans to establish educational partnerships that will include online seminars, video conferences and streaming grand rounds via video. As the program grows, he expects to expand it to other Latin American countries. Most international and local Latin American medical insurances are accepted through the program.

The response to the program so far has been highly favorable. "The patients we already have seen are really excited," Litvan says. "They are our best calling card."