Public-Private Collaboration Key to Tackling The PandemicBy Andrea Villar | Fri, 01/08/2021 - 15:28
Q: One of InnovaSalud’s goals is the introduction and encouragement of health innovation in Mexico. What progress has been made?
A: InnovaSalud is the only fund specialized in the health sector in Latin America. We are in the process of setting up a new fund, which seeks to invest in some companies related to new technologies that will impact the sector. We are looking at different platforms that deal with remote services or 3D printing, for instance. In the diagnostics field, we foresee big disruption. Clinical testing labs as we know them, where people go for a test then wait for days for the results, will transition to in-house models.
We are also betting on companies linked to digitalization. We foresee models where the doctor can do an echocardiogram and check blood pressure or glucose from a mobile device in seconds. There will be great disruption in this area. At InnovaSalud, we are supporting and promoting technologies that are moving healthcare in this direction. The new fund we are setting up will be closed in January or February at the latest and will allow us to make capital investments in Latin American companies of this nature. Beyond Latin America, we are also looking into companies in the US, Canada, Israel and others in Europe.
The pandemic has been a very difficult time. We are questioning access to health in many ways. Both access to healthcare professionals, to medical infrastructure, medicine and diagnostics. That is the main reason behind our focus for this new fund. We are taking advantage of all platforms and ideas that have been developed over the past few months across so many regions.
Q: What would InnovaSalud recommend to an innovative health company wanting to succeed in 2021?
A: We are seeing some pretty exciting healthcare models in Mexico. We should highlight the work of nurses and home caregivers. All of them are connected to digital platforms to monitor patients and report to doctors. This is of great interest and we already have invested in this field. We are also attracted to the concept of “hospital at home.” The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that this is crucial. What would have happened during the height of the pandemic if people had been treated at home on time? During these months, we have seen the birth of companies focused on this model, even helping patients by bringing oxygenation equipment to their homes. I believe that entrepreneurs should focus on these business models, which are disruptive but at the same time enable access to health.
Many patients have also stopped receiving medical care in recent months. Many of them did not want to go to the doctor, could not or had no health institutions available. The outcome from all these people giving up their treatments for diabetes, hypertension or cholesterol will be bad. Business models that help to provide follow-up for these patients remotely are also quite promising. I have no doubt that we are moving toward a scenario where a doctor can be hired in the same way as people today purchase a gym membership. The doctor would be paid a monthly fee to monitor treatments, for example. We will move from reactive medicine to proactive health.
Q: What are the main challenges in Mexico to start applying remote healthcare models?
A: Some of these models are already under development. However, we still need quality internet access. In 2019, the first remote surgeries were performed in Asia. This happened in a 5G environment. If we tried to do that in Mexico, the signal could fail at any time. While doctors here have no problem providing remote consultations in the main cities of the country, there are still problems in more remote areas. The biggest challenge, without a doubt, is high-capacity connectivity. This is a joint effort between the telephone and internet companies, the Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) and the federal government.
Q: How can society, government and the private sector use COVID-19 as a learning opportunity to improve overall health conditions in Mexico?
A: Significant progress has been made by the Mexican Health Foundation, together with Juntos por la Salud, the federal government and the leadership of Marcelo Ebrard, Zoé Robledo and Jorge Alcocer. There are positive instances of the public and private sectors working together. The most relevant examples are public-private partnerships for hospitals.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we were able to perform medical interventions together that had nothing to do with COVID-19. In that same way, there is a great opportunity to treat chronic degenerative diseases. The private sector, for example, can help to monitor patients with diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol.
Q: You have said that the public-private project Juntos por la Salud should become permanent. How can this agreement evolve beyond COVID-19?
A: Juntos por la Salud is a great initiative that came out of the collaboration between the Mexican Health Foundation, the BBVA Foundation, TecSalud and the UNAM School of Medicine. It includes more than 580 companies. However, there is a health access gap that still needs to be addressed, which forces us to migrate to distance care models. Juntos por la Salud has a role in helping to close these gaps and supporting the development of remote systems.
Regarding infrastructure, at Juntos por la Salud we work to realize donations of ventilators and even support their development. The same goes for diagnostics, medicines and devices. We have to support the government so medicine purchases are adequate to avoid crises like the lack of oncological medicines in the country.
Q: What are the main challenges that the country faces with the arrival of the vaccine and its distribution?
A: The Mexican Health Foundation is available and willing to work with the government. Together with Hugo López-Gatell, we have been discussing ways to collaborate. The government has already presented a strategy for the distribution of the vaccine and now we have to ensure that it is well-executed. Logistics will undoubtedly be one of the biggest challenges. This is where the private initiative can help to ensure that the vaccine reaches the right places.
We will also have to find ways to ensure that vaccines that require two doses are applied correctly. We have to guarantee that people do not miss the second dose. This is a matter of communication and social awareness.
InnovaSalud is a venture capital firm focused on healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. The company’s goal is to transform healthcare in Mexico through the introduction of innovative technologies.