HyeBridge Telemedicine Program Celebrates 15 Years Linking Physicians in Diaspora, Armenia and Artsakh

The following is a Hayastan-All Armenian Fund press release 

In an era where technology connects people from thousands of miles around the globe, the Hayastan-All Armenian Fund’s HyeBridge Telemedicine program continues to create a far-reaching and influential educational forum through just a click of a button. 

Linking medical minds from the Diaspora to the homeland, the long-standing innovative program, entering its 15th year, remains a leader in driving the healthcare industry forward in Armenia and Artsakh. 

The visionary initiative of HyeBridge, established in 2004, incorporates videoconferencing technologies with the goal of connecting doctors and healthcare providers in the Diaspora with their brethren in Armenia and Artsakh. In addition to providing medical information and organizing training and seminars, the teleconferences aim to forge professional ties and collaboration among Armenian in the medical industry around the world. 

“HyeBridge provides a platform that encourages the exchange of education, ideas and opinions,” said Lisa Stepanian, Executive Director of Armenia Fund USA. “The vast network that has been created as a result of this telemedicine program benefits not only the physicians and healthcare workers, but essentially the patients.” 

Since its inception, the program has flourished, carrying out 22 teleconferences on a yearly basis in the areas of cardiology, endocrinology, surgery and transmissible diseases, ultimately bringing together 800 medical professionals and physicians. Forming a common space of participation despite geographic distance, doctors from international cities such as Cleveland, New York, Tel Aviv, Stepanakert and Yerevan have joined in medical discussions and trainings in real time both in Armenia and in Artsakh. 

For over a decade now the program has been led by the in-country project manager Dr. Gevorg Yaghjyan, who has championed the telemedicine program since its pilot with polyclinics in the hospitals of Artsakh. A proponent of “smart” technologies, including video, smartphones and tablets, he sees telemedicine as the future of medical education. 

“Armenia Fund understood the importance of this program and the significance of continuing medical education from the very beginning,” said Yaghjyan, a former Fulbright Scholar at Boston University School of Medicine. “No organization except Armenia Fund saw that telemedicine is the future direction.” Despite the initial challenges of Internet speed and IT software, Armenia Fund invested in the project and became “a supporter from the start.” 

As Vice Dean of Postgraduate Medical Education at Yerevan State Medical University, Yaghjyan, a physician and plastic surgeon who has taught courses at Harvard and Yale Medical School, discovered that doctors of many regions of Armenia and Artsakh hadn’t been through additional training post-medical school graduation. 

“The benefit of this program is that we bring updated medical knowledge to healthcare professionals without troubling them,” said Yaghjian. “It’s important for regional doctors to network with professionals in Armenia and the Diaspora.”

Live diagnostic sessions are organized in medical centers, hospitals and universities throughout Armenia and Artsakh, enabling hundreds to sign into the web conferences, despite physical distance. The number of participating doctors and hospitals has only continued to grow, according to Yaghjyan, who organizes two teleconferences per month and seeks partnerships with the U.S. and Europe “to create a bridge on an institutional level.” 

HyeBridge’s success can be attributed to its unifying efforts with other organizations, partnering up with key groups in the Diaspora and the homeland, including the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO) and Yerevan State Medical University, along with the web-based consultation firm iConsult, as well as Karabakh Telecom and VivaCell, leading providers of internet and telecommunications in the region. 

The collaboration of both nonprofits and technology-driven companies has stimulated learning on a higher level and given more confidence to the regional doctors and professionals. 

Armenia Fund USA is dedicated to supporting large-scale, self-sustaining initiatives with the greatest potential for a brighter future for Armenia and Artsakh as they continue to undergo social and political transitions. The Fund is primarily focused on sustainable physical infrastructure for the region and humanitarian and economic development for communities, families, and individuals. Armenia Fund USA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization under U.S. law. For more information please visit www.armeniafundusa.org or call 201-639-3985.