Building a Local Healthtech EcosystemBy Miriam Bello | Wed, 03/16/2022 - 10:54
As the digital transformation permeates the health sector, creating a complete healthtech ecosystem has become a priority for industry providers. Healthtech has proven to be a bridge for care provision and as local companies further develop solutions, results show more precise outcomes.
In essence, a healthtech ecosystem is infrastructure that supports the transformation of an organization-centered healthcare model into a patient-centered model. The main purpose of this system is to deliver multidisciplinary and collaborative health services that overall transform the system. Healthtech is present in the application of organized knowledge and skills through devices, procedures, systems, medicines and vaccines that solve numerous health problems and improve the quality of life of the population. Apart from being a booster to Mexico’s health system, it also has a large influence on Mexico’s economic development, as local tech development is a pivotal indicator of national development.
Even though public investment in science and technology is still below 1 percent of the country’s GDP, Mexico is the second-leading innovator in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Global Innovation Index 2021. The index found that technological progress projects are the leading innovations driving the results, which directly improved indicators for labor productivity and life expectancy, as many of the tech projects for 2021 were health-related.
In the private sector, startups have been agile to come up with innovative solutions much quicker than established companies with more stakeholders who may take longer to approve new projects. Startups are also able to specialize in ultra-specific areas, unlike established companies that may not be able to dedicate time or personnel to specific issues. Startups are among the leading actors creating a healthtech environment globally and in Mexico. By studying health-related habits, preventive health and wellness, and pairing these with new lifestyle technologies, entrepreneurs are promoting greater access to healthcare.
There are several examples of startups that have created products to target the needs of the Mexican health sector. For instance, AI-based company PROSPERiA developed tools to identify individuals with undiagnosed diabetes, high vulnerability to the disease and already diagnosed patients at risk of developing complications. While this is not an endemic disease, it is one of the country’s largest health burdens, affecting 12.8 million people officially, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
Sofía is another solution built on the local health system. This is an insurtech startup that, unlike traditional insurance companies that have only reached 7 percent of the Mexican population, offers novel insurance plans that covers both minor and major expenses focused on prevention rather than on accidents. “This fresh approach to health is attractive to new generations that tend to be more aware and mindful about their health and daily habits. That is why we cover a simple flu or a major incident,” says Arturo Sánchez, CEO of Sofía.
Development of local tech has materialized in states such as Jalisco, which is known as the Mexican Silicon Valley due to its bet on entrepreneurship, tech and innovation. “The state has built strong innovation capabilities in many sectors thanks to its great universities and academic programs in engineering, medicine and many other specialties,” says Georgina García, President of Jalisco's Medical Cluster. Local universities have comprehensive healthcare-focused programs, such as a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and others in complementary areas like industrial engineering and marketing, García says. The state also has a CONACYT center and a CINVESTAV center with research focused on IoT and biotechnology, supporting many activities within the cluster. “This concentration of knowledge brings interesting opportunities to the medical industry and has allowed the state to develop its Una Salud por Jalisco (Health for Jalisco) program, which follows WHO’s recommendations on creating a transversal model for healthcare,” according to García.
Investment in innovation and tech has boosted Jalisco’s economic development, putting it among the Top 5 states based on GDP. Jalisco is No. 2 on the list of innovative states, which, according to its government, has contributed to its competitiveness in terms of income and public spending to support orderly urban development.
The healthtech ecosystem that Jalisco is creating can be replicated at a macro level as local tech is developed to fit the population and the national system. Moreover, the health sector is one of the most ripe and ready for a digital ecosystem evolution, according to Deloitte’s study, The power of networked ecosystems. How platforms can be a force-multiplier in health. “Relative to other industries, healthcare has far more expertise in managing the interests of diverse players,” says Deloitte.
The value of creating a healthtech ecosystem lies in creating omnichannel solutions that allow providers to communicate seamlessly with different stakeholders and across all channels, explains Mario Muniz, General Manager for North Latam at IQVIA. “To succeed in this new world, we really need to create personalized experiences and an aligned environment,” he says.