Mario Sicilia
Director General
Laboratorio Médico Polanco
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View from the Top

Prevention Benefits Everyone

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 14:13

Q: How does Laboratorio Médico Polanco (LMP) differentiate itself from other laboratories that offer similar services?
A: Most laboratories offer a similar portfolio of tests. Differentiation is mostly achieved through branding and franchise location. Most patients do not see quality as a differentiator as they believe tests from different laboratories will give equal results. Some labs have differentiated themselves by offering lower prices due to their high volume of samples. Others have found differentiation by presenting themselves as premium services, mainly relying on customer experience. While we do offer groups of tests to identify specific diseases or for different segments of the population, these have not yet worked as a differentiator. Our main opportunity will be the introduction of many innovative tests being developed in other countries, which have allowed for prevention strategies for certain diseases, including diabetes, obesity, hypertension and cancer. We are also selling testing services to hospitals through referrals and in this segment, quality is an important differentiator. The quality of our tests is supported by the College of American Pathologies.
Our differentiator should be innovation but there is still a long way to go to achieve this. There are two ways to innovate. The first is through the type of tests that a lab can offer to the market. The second is through the way laboratories interact with the patient, for instance by delivering results at home or allowing their doctors easy access to the patient’s results.
Q: How is LMP investing in state-of-the-art technology to improve healthcare outcomes?
A: Our laboratories are an intermediary between technology and patients. LMP, for instance, has exclusivity for a diabetes test that allows us to diagnose prediabetes. We are investing in a wide variety of solutions that result in high ROIC for patients and institutions. For example, treating a prediabetic costs the government from MX$3,000 (US$158) to MX$5,000 (US$263) per year. Treating a stage 3 diabetic costs the government MX$380,000 (US$19,195) per year. Prevention strategies can result in great savings and they should be prioritized in the following years, resulting in significant market growth.
Q: What role should prevention take in the development of sustainable strategies for the healthcare system?
A: Prevention should be key in the government’s strategy to treat diseases. While COFEPRIS, under former Minister of Health Mikel Arriola, began implementing prevention strategies to control healthcare costs in the long term, these policies have now changed because their results are neither immediate nor easy to observe.
In Nuevo Leon, the previous administration created a program where IMSS contributions would be reduced if employees subscribed to prevention programs. The objective of this program was for institutions to develop their own prevention strategy to reduce the incidence of future diseases, especially diabetes, obesity, hypertension and some types of cancer. Agreements of this type will bring significant benefits to the public sector and to diagnostics laboratories but they have not been popular because their results were not easy to see.
Q: How can the clinical laboratory industry grow in terms of presence and volume of tests?
A: The clinical laboratory sector in Mexico is worth about MX$30 billion (US$1.57 billion), not including the expenses of the public sector. About a third of these services are provided by hospitals and the rest through the many franchises of clinical laboratories. The industry has two significant opportunities for growth: coverage and density. There are many areas in Mexico that still do not have access to qualified clinical laboratories. It is also necessary to develop and enforce regulation that holds clinical laboratories to higher standards of quality. Poor clinical studies may mislead doctors and patients and cause diseases to go unattended for longer periods, leading to medical complications that can increase the overall cost of treatment. Blood tests are much more standard, but they do require certified processing centers that follow best practices to ensure reliability of test results.