Tomas Sanabria

Year founded: 

Maniapure leverages the power of communications technology to deliver specialist medical services to Venezuela’s isolated and needy populations.

Focus: Health, Technology, Rural Development
Geographic Area of Impact: Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Peru
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Venezuela, 2011

In remote regions of Venezuela people live without access to modern medical treatment. Those in need of treatment beyond basic healthcare services have few options other than undertaking the expensive, long and difficult journey to medical centres in large cities. Maniapure, named after a region and river in remote Venezuela, identified this need and has leveraged the power of communications technology to deliver specialized and modern medical services to Venezuela’s isolated and needy populations.

Innovation and Activities
Maniapure provides access to quality healthcare and specialized telemedicine services for those living in regions with limited access to healthcare and services in Venezuela and Ecuador, with pilot projects in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Peru.

In Venezuela, doctors are required to do rotations in rural, isolated areas as part of their training. Maniapure relies on these practitioners to formalize partnerships between advanced medical facilities, specialist doctors and local health organizations to create ambulatory outpatient services with higher quality equipment. Over time these clinics incorporated wireless technologies (two-way radios, satellite phones and satellite internet) to connect with specialists in Caracas and other major cities for consultation and treatment options for rural patients.

Maniapure’s approach is providing formerly unavailable treatment options and services to three states in Venezuela and three states in Ecuador, with increasing operations in peripheral urban areas where the model has proven useful and feasible. Families that visit Maniapure’s telemedicine clinics and Maniapure local doctors have been spared the difficult and often prohibitively expensive journeys to cities for proper medical care, and are able to connect with highly specialized doctors who guide local clinicians in diagnosis and treatment.

Each Maniapure clinic serves an average population of between 3,000 and 5,000. In Centro La Milagrosa de Maniapure, the original pilot site, 4,000 patients receive treatment annually. Nearly 95% of the patients across all clinics are effectively treated by local health technicians, with only 5% needing the telemedicine specialist consultations. Of those five percent, 80% can be treated at local centres by Maniapure doctors, and only 20% now require transport to Caracas or other major cities for in-person treatment. For that small minority of patients, Maniapure arranges all transport and appointments, minimizing the time patients are away from home and the time commitment of the specialists.

The Entrepreneur
While doing rural service as part of his medical training as a doctor, Tomas Sanabria was inspired by the plight of rural Venezuelans in accessing quality healthcare. Over time he grew aware of the growing need for more quality care, as well as the availability of resources that could be linked to fill that need: human resources of doctors serving in rural areas; community organizations; and access to telecommunications and wireless technology. Combining these resources, he created the Maniapure Project which has since grown into a social business providing unprecedented and high-quality care.