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Hospital Capacity Shifts in Mexico After COVID-19

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 03/26/2021 - 12:14

Q: What has changed regarding hospital capacity in Mexico since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak?

A: Mexico’s hospital capacity increased considerably regarding basic care infrastructure. In 2020, we saw a 6.4 percent increase in multiple-use beds and an 8.1 percent increase in short-stay beds. However, we only saw marginal increases in the installed base of ICU beds (1.7 percent) and ventilators.

As a whole, we can say that Mexico has increased its capacity to deal with cases of COVID-19, particularly in basic care, but it still has room for improvement in dealing with severe cases. In contrast, Latin America saw a lesser increase in multiple-use beds (2.9 percent) and short-stay beds (4.6 percent) but witnessed a much sharper increase in the installed base of ICU beds (16.4 percent).   

Q: How can hospitals and the health system make the best use of their available resources?

A: COVID-19 has created a huge paradox within medical establishments across Latin America.  On the one hand, hospitals were saturated with patients needing treatment for COVID-19. On the other hand, certain surgical procedures and physician visits dropped by over 50 percent. As a result, it is estimated there is a backlog of over 800,000 procedures in Mexico. Some of these procedures will likely be canceled, either by the patient or by the care provider, while others will be postponed. 

Mexican hospitals have been managing the COVID-19 crisis for exactly one year now. Many private institutions are finally able to move beyond crisis management to start planning once again. At the top of the agenda is the need to start conducting elective procedures again. Public institutions, however, are dealing with another reality: inventory shortages that are limiting their ability to conduct these procedures. Budgets have been curtailed to critical levels, further hampering the ability to perform consultations.

Q: How did the outbreak accelerate investment in specialized equipment and hospital infrastructure?

A: While 2020 saw a drop of over 50 percent in certain procedures (around a 35 percent drop across the board), the installed base for certain surgical procedures actually increased. Most significant are increase in the number of endoscopy towers ( 10.3 percent), angiography systems (8.9 percent), laparoscopic surgery equipment (6.4 percent), PET systems (6.3 percent) and fluoroscopes (6.1 percent). Some institutions were able to maintain their planned investments amid the pandemic. 

Q: How has the market reacted to your HospiCheck and HospiVista services?

A:  HospiCheck and HospiVista consultations slowed down during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, there was increased interest in HospiScope, ShareScope and SurgiScope. ShareScope enables clients to be able to track market size and map market share on a quarterly basis with over 95 percent accuracy. This was of critical interest to clients who wanted to understand how their market was evolving during the pandemic. Meanwhile, we partnered with NGOs to identify hospitals with the greatest need for ventilators. HospiScope enabled the quick identification of target institutions and with a high degree of precision.

Finally, SurgiScope enabled us to quantify procedure volumes prior to the pandemic and identify where these were being conducted. We are now able to see first-hand how procedure volumes have been affected by COVID-19 at an institutional level. 

Q: How did the pandemic impact attractive investment hubs around the world? 

A: It is impossible to change what is not measured. Before considering the ability to implement massive changes, it is important to recognize that Mexico has very little data on how healthcare systems operate. Even the most basic knowledge on procedure volumes escapes us in Mexico. It is very difficult to gain insight into how many procedures are conducted in the public sector and virtually impossible to do this in the private sector. 

Other countries in Latin America and around the world understand that monitoring procedure volumes at a national level – in both the public and private sectors – is critical to population management and the implementation of healthcare policies that will have durable impact. Without this most elementary of knowledge, we are left with nothing more than hope. 

Q: What new dynamics do you foresee within the hospital infrastructure environment?

A: The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that policymakers need to rethink the way they deal with population health management. Latin America and Mexico lag in healthcare infrastructure so when there is peak demand, as in the case of a pandemic, the system is brought to its knees.  Meanwhile, infrastructure buildout can take decades. This is why the expansion of technological solutions is so critical – scalability makes them particularly attractive for regions with less developed infrastructure. In this case, policymakers need to shift their mindset from infrastructure buildout to technology guidelines to facilitate implementation and scalability.  

Q: How will hospitals benefit or be impacted by the homecare trend that has gained strength amid COVID-19?

A: Hospital systems, like any other industry player, must adapt to change. Technology can be a strong disruptor of well-established institutions. The more astute groups will understand that technology can be an ally, not a threat, while all others will be sidelined by these developments. 

What is unique in the Mexican healthcare system is the comparable size of public institutions versus their private counterparts. Public institutions have, on average, 95 beds per hospital. Private institutions on the other hand have, on average, 16 beds per hospital.

Technological investment is easier in bulk, which means that small private hospitals will have a more difficult time investing in technology. This could, in turn, lead to consolidation of the private sector.

Q: How can Mexican hospitals adopt technology to improve their performance?

A: Technology is the new way to scale infrastructure. This can serve small to medium-sized private hospitals that seek to establish a larger footprint and make better use of their installations. Meanwhile, the public sector can use technological progress to broaden access. 

Q: How could Mexico improve its regulation to favor a safe data analytics environment and the digital transformation of the health sector?

A: The very first actions need to include mandatory reporting of cases at the institutional level, covering both the public and private sectors. This can cover consultations, diagnostics, treatments and procedures. Data must contain demographic information, such as gender, location and age, but cannot include any unique identifiers, such as name or RFC. Secondly, there must be direction and mandates regarding data exchange platforms and use protocols. This is particularly important when considering coding of diagnostics and procedures, which should be in line with international standards, notably ICD-10. 

 

Global Health Intelligence conducts market research to provide strategic data on health infrastructure in emerging Latin American and Asian markets. The company offers four main services: HospiScope, ShareScope, In-Scope and SurgiScope.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst