The 2022 Russia-Ukraine war has caused significant loss of life and destruction of people’s livelihoods. However, international aid efforts continue, with a focus on restoring health and safety to the region. Urgent action is needed in times of war, and this has presented opportunities to highlight the incredible innovation that can be applied to our modern health-care system and other situations where humanitarian relief is required. Just as World War II greatly boosted industrial productivity, we’re now seeing remarkable advances in telemedicine stemming from the war in Ukraine. While the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a rapid expansion of telemedicine in the United States and other western countries, Ukrainian efforts by necessity have been much more aggressive.

We are all doctors, medical students, and telemedicine professionals involved in the Ukrainian relief efforts, working alongside nurses, volunteers, and engaged citizens. What have we learned so far? The biggest lesson is that with technology, less is more. Companies and regulators run the risk of missing out on the biggest opportunities for raising productivity by requiring high-tech solutions that are both costly and unnecessary.

In 2022, as Russia’s invasion devastated much of Ukraine’s health-care infrastructure, volunteers and scores of new and old humanitarian groups from around the world mobilized resources to help. Telemedicine quickly became an essential channel and continues to evolve as the war continues. One study of 125 Ukrainian medical professionals found that 99 percent of physicians continued their use of telemedicine tools, and more than half of physicians increased telemedicine adoption during the conflict.

Soon after the start of the war, we helped to mobilize two organizations: Health Tech Without Borders (HTWB) and Telehelp Ukraine. Together, they have completed over 62,000 tele-consults for patients. HTWB recruited 800 volunteers, most of them from outside the United States, with a focus on Ukrainian- and Russian-speaking physicians that could plug-and-play into a Ukrainian-built telemedicine platform called Doctor Online.

While HTWB focused on primary care, Telehelp Ukraine aided patients requiring specialists. The two organizations coordinated their efforts to hand off patients as needed. In collaboration with other providers, HTWB and Telehelp Ukraine offer the entire spectrum of medical care to Ukrainians, from primary care to specialty consults via virtual means.

Read the full article about telemedicine by Jarone Lee, Wasan Kumar, Marianna Petrea-Imenokhoeva, Hicham Naim and Shuhan He at Stanford Social Innovation Review.