Healthcare Industry: Lessons Learnt from the PandemicBy Miriam Bello | Thu, 01/28/2021 - 14:26
Taking the pandemic as a learning experience is key to address its impact and to strengthen the industry for future challenges. On Thursday, Jan. 28, Mexico Health Summit presented the panel “Healthcare Industry: Lessons Learnt from the Pandemic,” where participants concluded that investment in R&D, internal collaboration and technology adoption were the three key elements to prioritize following the pandemic.
“Billions of pesos have been invested in global R&D. However, Mexico has not followed the example of other countries,” said Sonia Pérez, Executive Director of UDIBI-IPN. “The pandemic did serve us to determine our needs from a scientific standpoint and to realize Mexico’s 100 percent dependency on foreign technology.” According to Pérez, lack of investment is what stops the country from moving from manufacturing to technology development.
Moderator Graciela Teruel, Director of EQUIDE at Universidad Iberoamericana, addressed the topic of turning research projects into actual products. Pérez said Mexico has the needed infrastructure, professionals and regulatory entities to participate in product development. However, there needs to be an intermediary that is ready to commercialize products. “Regulation also has to adapt to respond to advances in product development” said Bertha Mancilla, Director of the Immuno-Oncology Business Unit of Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) Mexico. “Innovation needs not just investment but working with local industries to be able to land it and transform it into solutions.” Mancilla highlighted BMS has collaborations with local institutions and other private companies in projects that enables R&D seeds to bloom. However, these should no longer be isolated efforts, she said.
About collaboration, which is the second strong point that panelists touched upon, Jorge Valdez, Dean of Tecnológico de Monterrey School of Medicine and Health Sciences (TecSalud), explained that one effective way to begin is through local and state projects. “That way, you can easily measure the impact and therefore, be able to set the ground to scale the projects to a federal level.” This scheme was used in COVID-19 vaccine developments, for instance by Curevac and the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. “We need to let go of the absurd idea that we are two different entities. In Mexico, the public and private sector are heavily divided, regardless of the industry, which has been proven to be absurd.”
David Barros Sierra, Chief of Operational Division at the Direction of Economic and Social Benefits of IMSS, said Mexico’s dependency on foreign markets was evidenced in every aspect of healthcare, from supply to technology development following the pandemic. “However, it also made everyone reflect and look at the strengths of our local industry,” he said. Public-private financing is a catalyst for innovation and research projects. However, Mexico has a fragmented system that creates a barrier in terms of data delivery, which reflects heavily in transparency.
Barros Sierra also introduced the subject of technology and the adoption gap that Mexico faces. “Mexico has to integrate new mechanisms that integrate qualitative and quantitate data and expose the real needs of the population,” he said. Juana Ramírez, CEO of Grupo SOHIN, commented on the lack of infrastructure to address this issue. “Many communities still do not have internet connection nor computers, which stops many ideas from healthcare providers from becoming actual solutions.”
Still, according to Ramirez, the pandemic has changed the way providers approach patients. “We now see that hospitalization is not always necessary and that patients can be approached differently,” she said. Amid mobility restrictions, people are going less to hospitals, which ends up being counterproductive for diagnosis and prevention. Ramirez proposes the adoption of technology and the creation of ambulatory centers to offer customized attention, while reducing costs and providing timely diagnosis to improve outcomes.