Fostering Public-Private Collaboration in HealthBy Miriam Bello | Wed, 05/12/2021 - 09:56
Q: What are the CCE's priorities to support timely access to medicine and health services?
A: We have a very clear agenda, which we shared from the beginning with the current administration. This cross-cutting agenda addresses the interests of 12 private sector organizations and is endorsed by FunSalud (the No. 1 health think tank in Latin America), the UNAM Faculty of Medicine and by Red de Acceso (a group that coordinates several patients' associations), among other entities.
Our transversal agenda includes six main priorities. First, to implement a comprehensive prevention strategy to reduce chronic diseases. Second, to strengthen the primary medical care by ensuring the quality of care. Third, to ensure that the public budget is allocated as efficiently and transparently as possible by integrating the private sector to cover investment gaps. Fourth, to measure the impact of public policy through key performance indicators to enable better decision-making. Fifth, given that the health system is highly fragmented, we want to promote the transition to a single system with significant private sector participation. We are facilitating and accelerating the adoption of technologies that allow an easier and more effective user experience through the system, such as the electronic health record. Sixth, we unanimously support universal health coverage, while being cautious with how it is implemented due to low public sector health spend and national finances that need to be kept in check, with a complementing participation of the private sector to fill this gap.
Q: How is the CCE collaborating with private hospitals to have their physicians vaccinated against COVID-19?
A: We see the importance of vaccinating healthcare workers who are exposed on a daily basis, regardless of whether they work in the public or private sector. Also, given the possibility of asymptomatic infections, it is critical not to differentiate between healthcare workers who are directly treating COVID-19 patients and those who are not. From our position, we support the vaccination plan and we want to help fulfill it to reestablish public health in our country and achieve a much-needed economic reactivation.
It is also important to recognize the role insurers have played throughout the pandemic by providing special coverage for healthcare personnel who have become ill and covering the costs for patients who were insured.
Q: How is the CCE prioritizing investments to support the public sector?
A: From the beginning of this administration, we identified issues that could be improved to help the country build infrastructure and health capacities to serve the population, especially those living in poverty or who are marginalized. However, this past year was marked by the pandemic and the priority has been on how to respond to that need. We already had a health system that faced lags and areas that needed strengthening and renovation. The pandemic emphasized these areas.
The country invests little in health as a percentage of its GDP compared to other countries. We believe that investment in health is good business because it yields results in the short, medium and long term, not only in terms of people's well-being but also in terms of productivity, innovation and employment. We also feel it is important to work as a team with the private sector because there are important capabilities in infrastructure, facilities, equipment, technology and trained health personnel. Just as an agreement was made so the government could use beds from private hospitals, there is other infrastructure that the government can use collaboratively. Examples of this are pharmacies and their clinics, the diagnostic capacity of labs and medicines provided by pharmaceutical companies. But collaboration is needed with clearer and more transparent processes and criteria for all participants. This becomes particularly important with the urgency arising from the pandemic.
In a post-COVID-19 era, there will be many opportunities: we can attract more vaccines, both for COVID-19 and other diseases; leverage technologies to provide greater access to healthcare without the need to build more hospitals and clinics; and encourage healthy lifestyles as part of a prevention strategy.
Q: What regulatory measures would be necessary to have a digital health framework that provides security to both the patient and the technology companies?
A: Technology and information technologies are pending areas for regulation. In the face of the new wave of technologies, many of which are based on artificial intelligence, we stand to lose as a country if we devote ourselves to developing restrictive regulatory frameworks. We must encourage the development of these technologies, open spaces for pilot tests with appropriate protocols, facilitate the scaling up of those with positive results and work together to design a regulatory framework that does not limit growth in this field.
Q: What are the CCE's views on the recent changes to the packaging of government-directed medicines and other measures?
A: COFEPRIS has been able to position itself as a reference health agency, which allows medicine and device manufacturers to fast track into other markets once certified in Mexico. This opens the door to exports, opportunities for economic development, employment and investment. However, there has been a lag in procedures. Given that nearly 11 percent of national GDP goes through COFEPRIS, demand for its services is very high. Hence the need to move toward digitalized processes that can flow more quickly. This makes our economy more competitive, and also provides greater access to healthcare.
One relevant factor that has been repeatedly pointed out by this administration, is the importance of fighting corruption. Companies established in Mexico are serious companies that thrive in a transparent environment. Therefore, having an environment with more agile and transparent processes is a necessity for the health sector. We support the actions taken by the new commissioner, Alejandro Svarch, and we believe they coincide with recommendations we made previously.
We must ensure that the processes that have been implemented due to the pandemic are implemented on a level playing field between companies established in Mexico and those established abroad and, perhaps, even slightly favor those companies that have decided to trust, invest, generate jobs and pay their taxes in Mexico.
COFEPRIS has an enormous task. It oversees citizen health, but it can also act as a trigger for investment.
Q: What is the CCE's priority health project at the moment?
A: We are collaborating with COFEPRIS to continue improvements and develop a more efficient and transparent commission. We are also collaborating with INSABI to simplify the process of acquiring medicines and medical supplies and to reduce the supply backlog at more competitive prices. There is also a great area of opportunity in the formation of an industrial pharmaceutical and medical device regulatory policy that promotes the development of these industries and attracts investment and innovation. We should focus on the main lesson from COVID-19: we need to invest more in health, both in the public and private sectors.
The Business Coordinating Council (CCE) represents the interests of Mexican businesses to the government. Its Health Commission supports the interests of Mexico’s healthcare companies.