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Philips Foundation and SAS Brasil launch first-of-its-kind innovation lab in Brazil to drive digital health in primary care

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Jul 01, 2024

By the Philips Foundation team

  • Launching this innovation lab for digital health education marks a significant leap forward in advancing healthcare training for remote regions of Brazil
  • Leveraging Philips’ expertise in ultrasound services and training thousands of healthcare workers allows further expansion of much-needed specialized healthcare
  • Philips Foundation also supported SAS Brasil to alleviate communities affected by the floods in Rio Grande do Sul


São Paulo, Brazil – Philips Foundation, with its mission to provide access to quality healthcare for 100 million people a year in underserved communities by 2030, and SAS Brasil, announces the launch of an innovation lab dedicated to digital health education. The initiative focuses on improving healthcare in remote communities in Brazil. It provides quality training, leverages ultrasound technology, and will serve as a testing ground for researching the impact of new healthcare technologies and advocating for policy changes to improve primary care.


The SAS Brasil Living Lab, a collaborative initiative with UNICAMP, one of Brazil's most prestigious universities, was established with the support of Philips Foundation. This innovation lab will serve as a hub for research, innovation, and education in digital health, benefiting healthcare professionals and students by enhancing their skills and knowledge in digital healthcare practices. This initiative builds on a previous project between SAS Brasil, Philips Brazil, and Philips Foundation, through which Brazil's first remote ultrasound was conducted. Through this project, telehealth protocols were developed, which now serve as the foundation for new training programs in the innovation lab.


By leveraging Philips’ expertise in ultrasound, Philips Foundation plays a critical role by enabling access to vital healthcare services, including offering maternal care through tele-ultrasound for remote communities. Additionally, the support enables the monitoring of patients’ vital signs from a distance, conducting electrocardiograms (ECGs), and performing remote cervical examinations. The initiative aims to provide training to 3,600 individuals, enabling access to quality healthcare for a catchment area of 3.6 million people in Brazil.


Expanding specialized healthcare capacity  

Brazil's vast size poses challenges for its healthcare system, particularly in providing specialized care to remote regions. Long distances from advanced health facilities and a shortage of specialized healthcare workers hinder access to quality healthcare in these areas.


The WHO predicts a global shortfall of 10 million health workers by 2030, primarily affecting low- and middle-income countries [1]. To address this challenge, task shifting has emerged as a crucial strategy to strengthen and expand the healthcare workforce. Coupled with the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases [2] and ongoing obstacles in accessing maternity care across Latin America [3], particularly in remote regions, early diagnosis capability is a necessity.

SAS Brasil’s Living Lab can serve as a 'sandbox' for testing new technologies and putting research into practice, potentially advocating for policy changes to benefit primary healthcare.

Sabine Zink

CEO of SAS Brasil


"By providing our first students with innovative tools and training, we are unlocking their potential to become skilled health workers capable of delivering specialized care,” said Sabine Zink, CEO of SAS Brasil. “Moreover, SAS Brasil’s Living Lab can serve as a 'sandbox' for testing new technologies and putting research into practice, potentially advocating for policy changes to benefit primary healthcare. This allows us to address healthcare gaps in remote communities, ensuring that high-quality services are accessible regardless of geography."


Building on a successful partnership

In an initial collaboration, Philips Foundation, Philips Brazil and SAS Brasil partnered in deploying four specialized telehealth centers to deliver quality healthcare to remote areas. These centers, initially aimed to handle 19K appointments, exceeded expectations by providing 29K exams and consultations, both online and in person. 


Today, three of the centers are fully operated by public health nurses, highlighting the sustainable approach of the initiative, which prioritizes local capacity building and ensures ongoing access to specialized healthcare services in these remote regions.


“By empowering local health workers and providing specialized health services, they have delivered much-needed care to some of Brazil's most remote communities,” said Margot Cooijmans, Director of the Philips Foundation. “The success of this approach paved the way for further expansion in 2024, with an innovation lab where students are trained to operate life-saving technology, thereby extending access to diagnosis capabilities to even the most remote corners of the country.”


Alleviating communities impacted by the severe floods in Rio Grande do Sul

Aware of the impact of the severe floods in Rio Grande do Sul [4], Philips Foundation supported SAS Brasil in delivering crucial healthcare assistance to affected communities. The collaboration enables mobile health units with essential medical supplies to serve communities at primary healthcare facilities. The SAS Brasil team will also conduct and support telehealth consultations for mental health services for families affected by the floods.


“SAS Brasil has also distributed vital resources like fresh water, blankets, food, and will identify and assess new regions to ensure that areas that were most affected receive necessary care. By partnering with the local government, healthcare authorities, and volunteers, we aim to meet immediate and long-term healthcare needs, while rebuilding the healthcare infrastructure for future resilience," Sabine Zink added.


[1] WHO (2024). Health workforce
[2] Pan American Health Organization (2019). The burden of non-communicable diseases
[3] Pan American Health Organization (2022). Strides in maternal health mark PAHO’s impact in the Americas
[4] Folha de S. Paulo (2024). Rio Grande do Sul tragedy resulted in largest displacement of homes in Brazil in three decades


For further information, please contact:


Yannick Eshuijs
Philips Foundation
Tel.: +31 6 1852 6633
LinkedIn Profile


Ileana Carrasco
Philips Latin America
Tel.: +507 2828058

About Philips Foundation

Philips Foundation is a registered non-profit organization established in 2014 – with a mission to provide access to quality healthcare for underserved communities across the globe. By leveraging Philips’ capabilities and combining them with the experience and expertise of non-governmental organizations and other community-focused and impact-driven enterprises, Philips Foundation helps create innovative pathways to open up affordable healthcare for communities most in need. By also partnering with innovative social entrepreneurs rooted in the local ecosystem, Philips Foundation aims to increase access to healthcare for 100 million people a year by 2030.  More information can be found at

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About SAS Brasil

SAS Brasil is a social organization whose mission is to bring specialized healthcare to those who don't have it. Since 2013, has worked in an itinerant manner in cities lacking access to specialist doctors, resolving health problems from end to end, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment, directly impacting SUS waiting lists. SAS Brasil also works with telehealth, guaranteeing access to several specialties for thousands of people, and created innovative and award-winning solutions, nationally and internationally, such as teleservice booths and pioneering remote gynecological examinations, such as ultrasound and colposcopy. More than 420 thousand people have already benefited in more than 350 cities in 24 Brazilian states. More information can be found at

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