Leveraging Big Data for Better HealthcareWed, 09/07/2016 - 17:34
Q: Global Health Intelligence has a focus on emerging markets. Why is it particularly interesting in Mexico?
A: Emerging markets abroad are an attractive focal point thanks to their growth perspective. The healthcare industry is expected to grow two to three times faster in emerging markets than in developed economies between now and 2017. Any mature business that is striving to grow in global markets must plunge into the emerging market playing field. With that being said, Latin America differentiates itself with a large population, 625 million of which about 128 million live in Mexico.
We are particularly interested in the fact that the Latin American market has a complex healthcare system in which there is no standardized government metric for measuring hospital demographics. The region has 16,000 hospitals in total, more than all of Europe. There are more hospitals in Brazil than in the US, a whopping 7,000, while Mexico has nearly 4,000. Together Mexico and Brazil account for two-thrids of Latin American hospitals. Consequently, any business that wants to compete seriously in the region must participate in these two countries. With this perspective, Latin America is a huge healthcare market that has been sidelined by many multinationals for the last 20 years.
Q: How does GHI collect data in the region and specifically in Mexico?
A: We use health demographics to map hospital penetration across the region. We cover 11 countries, with 12,000 of the region’s 16,000 hospitals. As a result, GHI has developed the world’s largest hospital demographics database focused on Latin America. All data is collected, verified and distributed by GHI. We have a call center and research staff in Mexico to handle the majority of this work. The first step of the process involves contacting government ministries across the region to obtain information about their healthcare network and infrastructure. In most cases, we receive a list of hospital contacts and addresses and our call center continues the labor by contacting hospitals to obtain additional information. We ask 106 questions to each hospital, gathering data from the number of beds to the type of equipment they use. GHI also delves into the human resource departments to inquire about medical staff and capabilities.
It is an incredibly challenging task, yet rewarding as we see positive collaboration from both hospitals and clients. We anticipate obtaining 85 percent regional coverage by 2017. We support the hospitals that are willing to give us information by sharing information with them regarding hospital infrastructure development. This is very much a collaborative task.
Q: What challenges does the sector need to face to make growth happen in light of the increase in chronic diseases?
A: Chronic diseases are the largest burden on the healthcare radar regionally, and on top of that list is obesity. The latter is a precursor to a wide range of complications like stroke and diabetes. It is a massive long-term strain on the healthcare system. Some of these diseases, like diabetes, are irreversible and need a lifetime of expensive treatment.
On a positive note, in 2013 Mexico had a diabetes awareness campaign that was the largest of its kind regionwide. During this event, diabetes tests were provided, as well as information on the importance of eating well and exercising. The event demonstrates that policies are being developed, even if the effects are yet to be seen.
Q: How has the government reacted to the incoming reality of an aging population?
A: Latin America has the fastest aging population in the world. By 2055, the 45 to 60-year-old age group will grow by 40 percent, while the over 60-year-old age group will grow threefold. Investing in infrastructure and building more hospitals is not an efficient solution due to high costs and limited lifespan of the use of infrastructure, much like building a large number of schools at a time when people are having fewer children. We have to be more innovative. One example is to focus on population health management, focusing on maintaining a population healthy rather than on treating the ill. Digital health awareness is an element in this equation, which Latin Americans are adopting quite well.