Access to care

Smart Clinic gets Colombia's healthcare system moving

Faced with an ailing healthcare system in Venezuela, Ana Milena Rojas made the long journey over the border to Colombia to find medical help for her unborn child. On the barren Guajira Peninsula, far from Colombia’s densely populated cities, she found help—in a mobile Smart Clinic.
Andrea Lutz
Published on 2. April 2024

With 51.5 million inhabitants, Colombia is the most populous country in South America after Brazil [1]. Over 80 percent of the population already live in cities [2]—and those who don’t are increasingly migrating there, since people in coastal and rural regions are disadvantaged in many respects, especially when it comes to access to healthcare. A mobile clinic is seeking to address this problem in the poor rural regions of the north. It is a 12-meter-long bus that has been converted into a Smart Clinic, which is equipped to bring basic healthcare services to people who cannot reach doctors and clinics in the cities.

The Smart Clinic has become an important point of contact, especially for women affected by poverty. Although it was used as a mobile unit during the COVID-19 pandemic, its approximately 30 employees now focus entirely on providing health advice and care for both pregnant women and families. Migrants from Venezuela, who have increasingly been coming to Colombia since the border crossings were opened, can also benefit from access to medical check-ups and laboratory services with no red tape.

Smart Clinic La Guajira infographic

Venezuela has been experiencing an economic crisis involving hyperinflation for years. By August 2023, some 7.7 million people had fled the country—that’s around a quarter of the total population [3]. Of those, around 2.9 million live in Colombia [4]. Rojas is one of them. This young woman developed complications during pregnancy and, since she had no access to medical care in her home country, she made the arduous journey to Colombia. “We know that in Latin America we are already on the verge of 700 million inhabitants—and we believe that a large part of this population doesn't have access to quality healthcare,” says Francisco Vélez, Managing Director of Siemens Healthineers Colombia. He explains how institutional cooperation can help here.

Providing pregnant and breastfeeding women with primary and specialized care—via lightweight portable diagnostic devices for ultrasound examinations, for example—is at the heart of the Smart Clinic. However, Rojas found more than gynecological care at the practice: She also received the psychological support that was crucial for her and her child:
In collaboration with the Colombian Red Cross (Cruz Roja), Siemens and Siemens Healthineers have equipped the bus with medical imaging systems, laboratory equipment, and other devices. A team of doctors and nurses is now traveling around the country to provide care for mothers and children in places with great need. Sometimes, large families with several children come to the clinic. The team can then offer nonstandard assistance, preventive services, and advice for everyone.

This collaborative arrangement makes it possible to provide humanitarian services to those who need them the most. The Colombian Red Cross is also stepping up its efforts to offer support to communities affected by violence, provide assistance to families, and promote protection for migrants.

By Andrea Lutz
Andrea Lutz is a journalist and business trainer specialized on medical topics, technology, and healthcare IT. She lives in Nuremberg, Germany.