Technology as a Catalyst for AccessWed, 09/05/2018 - 12:41
One of the main problems facing the Mexican health sector is access to services for much of the population. By introducing technology, these services can become more accessible to a greater number of people, says Javier Guadarrama, Director General of Health and Benefits at Grupo Promass. “The main problem we have identified in the existing healthcare model is the lack of access to health services for the general population. Our ultimate goal is to bring healthcare services closer to the population through information and communications technologies (ITC). It might sound simple but it is a very complex project,” says Guadarrama.
Grupo Promass specializes in designing, developing, commercializing and implementing products and services and is a leading integrator of intermediaries in insurance, assistance, health, technology and telecommunications. Health and Benefits, its healthcare arm, develops products aligned with the medical needs of the population. The division, explains Guadarrama, adheres to the guidelines of the National Development Plan and the Sectorial Health Plan and follows the WHO’s recommendations for the use of ITCs to integrate hospitals, doctors, laboratories, optics suppliers and many other suppliers of health products. Reducing costs is one of the company’s goals. “Many studies have revealed that healthcare is the largest out- of-pocket expense people make for themselves or their families, mainly in the case of catastrophic events.”
Some practices from overseas have been successfully implemented in Mexico to address patient needs. “We have developed telephone consultations as a step prior to a medical visit. This is not a unique model since the National Health System (NHS) of London has been using this methodology for more than 20 years with excellent results.” What sets Grupo Promass’ service apart is that all telephone consultations are provided exclusively by a doctor, while the UK employs nurses and other professionals. To begin providing this service, Grupo Promass followed and adapted Mexican Clinical Practice Guides. “When we started operations, there were no guidelines for phone consultations. We decided to develop entirely new guidelines and protocols for the call,” says Guadarrama. These protocols allow doctors to easily identify risk factors and quickly determine whether the patient needs immediate medical attention. “We have provided this service for over 12 years and in that time we have noticed that about 80 percent of problems can be solved through a phone call and only 6 percent of cases are emergencies. The remaining 14 percent are canalized to a doctor the following day. Most importantly, 98 percent of our patients are happy with the service and we have not had any fatal event in all this time. It is an effective and safe strategy for medical care."
The company’s Health and Benefits department has over 5 million individual policyholders but since this is a benefit for families, the company estimates that it provides this service to over 20 million people. The level of acceptance led the company to invest in technology. “We developed teleconsultations, which allow patients to discuss issues with their doctors through a video conference,” says Guadarrama. The company also sets up required medical visits across the country, including sessions with specialists.
Phone and video consultations have also become a platform to develop prevention and monitoring programs. Its Chronic Patient program, for example, focuses exclusively on patients with diabetes and hypertension. “With this equipment, we can continuously monitor patients and promote a culture of prevention. Alongside our medical personnel, we also monitor patient compliance and we can even send them more medication if they run out. Similarly, we are developing a program for seniors who might or might not have these chronic diseases. In this case, the service supplies an alert button they can use to request immediate help in emergencies.”
Grupo Promass wants to continue expanding its service offering to provide specialized care. “Our goal is to bring health services to the homes of our members wherever they are, just when they need it. This avoids self-medication, unnecessary travel and health expenses and benefits family and government programs in the field of medical care,” says Guadarrama.