Latest Technology Not Always the Best TechnologyBy Miriam Bello | Tue, 10/06/2020 - 18:35
Q: How can COVID-19 promote change in the development of medical devices in Mexico?
A: The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of having biomedical engineers at medical facilities, the deficiencies of the Mexican healthcare system and the poor and inefficient public policies related to Mexico’s healthcare needs. Healthcare has been a banner of many administrations but it has hardly been addressed. While the private sector can offer world-class services, the limited public sector is attending to most of the population, especially regarding hospitalization services, as most people visit a pharmacy for primary medical consultations.
In the medical devices sector, Mexico has all the capabilities to expand its presence but technology development is not there yet. In fact, it is almost nonexistent. The country is a just big hub of medical devices manufacturing, especially in the northern border region. During the current global context of COVID-19, these deficiencies have forced Mexico to unexpectedly buy medical devices from manufacturers that normally do not take part in national tenders. This is due to the lack of incentives to develop technology. Mexico incentivizes science, albeit at a low rate, but it does not foster technological development because this means supporting the whole production chain of a final product, which involves greater investment.
Arroba Ingeniería is helping in the development of three ventilators. Thanks to these projects, we see that Mexico has talent, as well as consolidated brands that want to develop solutions to meet the current needs of the population.
Q: How can Mexican products and technology compete in terms of quality against foreign products that dominate the healthcare sector?
A: The healthcare market has many niches. The nature of the sector is very sophisticated and specific but it all has a base. From the most advanced devices to the simplest, they all come from the same base. However, you cannot ask Mexico to deliver world-class technology if the country has not developed simpler solutions. The country has even faced situations where new technology is available but would require extensive training for medical staff that is not used to working with state-of-the-art technology. In other cases, the infrastructure does not comply with the electrical installation requirements.
The reality is that development of technology is just the tip of the iceberg for our needs as a country.
Against this backdrop, Arroba Ingeniería has focused on simple solutions because the goal is to make health a right more than a privilege. Around 80 percent of medical facilities, especially in rural communities, require basic technology that is easy to use and to maintain. In our experience, for some medical facilities, more advanced or state-of-the-art technology could become underused problematic to use, while still being costly.
As a technology developer, we know that some providers will not take into consideration the actual needs and capacities of some facilities, instead selling costly, complex technology that will end up not being used. Moreover, equipment might require hard-to-find spare parts and a specialized biomedical engineer to run it.
Q: How do your work and products contribute to an integrated healthcare system in Mexico?
A: Arroba Ingeniería has understood the reality of the country, which is why we have developed simpler products that are still complex in their development but which comply with the needs of patients, are easy to use and optimize the use of resources.
The public sector commonly asks for incubators with servo oxygen control, which requires a sensor with specific durability. Arroba Ingeniería has sold thousands of these but we have never sold a replacement of the sensor, meaning that they bought the products and never used them because later they end up purchasing equipment from other companies that will tell them that their technology is more beneficial for patients, which is a lie in most cases. Against this backdrop, our biggest effort is in talking with clients and explaining the benefits of our products and how the money they can save by using our technology can be used for something else, such as an open heart procedure for a newborn, which will indeed require state-of-the-art technology and highly specialized staff and infrastructure. It is not about selling just for the sake of it. We want to contribute to the system by guiding clients and offering quality and accessible products.
Q: What are the most common neonatal complications in Mexico and how does Arroba Ingeniería tackle these?
A: In general, Mexico has good natality survival rates but bad technological dispersion can lead to deaths from complications of either the baby or the mother, most commonly in rural areas and hard to reach mountainous regions. Actually, our birth rates are better than the US, as we have fewer premature babies.
Q: How has the COVID-19 outbreak in Mexico impacted your operations?
A: As a result of the pandemic, we had to reconfigure our production. Right now, we are focusing on designing products for the pandemic, such as transfer capsules. The project was designed together with a biomedical engineer that has an ambulance service company. As the pandemic spread, he realized that transferring infected patients required special equipment, so he designed 10 of these capsules to use in his ambulances. Once the virus started reaching more people in the country, he asked us for help. With the expertise of Arroba Ingeriería, we were able to create a transfer capsule that complies with regulatory requirements and that offers guidance for assembly and use, making it an important device during the pandemic. Thanks to media reports about the capsule, the company is now in talks with the UN to manufacture 1,000 capsules to distribute around the country.
We are helping another ventilator manufacturer to cope with demand. Meanwhile, our regular production of incubators continues.
Q: What are your near-term goals for Arroba Ingeniería?
A: We have complied with certifications to export our products, and Latin and Central America will be our first targets. After the pandemic, we hope to launch our expansion as a company.
Arroba Ingeniería is a Mexican engineering company specialized in the development of medical devices. It is designing a solution to diagnose children’s vulnerability to diabetes