Technology to Strengthen, Democratize Primary HealthcareBy Antonio Gozain | Wed, 02/16/2022 - 19:07
Technology has played an important role as an enabler and paradigm-shifter in multiple industries. Although the Mexican health sector is far from reaching its full technological potential due to diverse barriers, technology will break paradigms and democratize primary healthcare (PHC) and insurance culture in the country, agreed industry experts.
“The low penetration of medical insurance in Mexico is astonishing. Technology offers great advantages regarding PHC, both for patients and for healthcare providers. Patients save time and do not need to be exposed, while healthcare providers have a more efficient model, which takes advantage of technologies such as telemedicine,” said Carina Reverter, CEO, Meeting Doctors.
PHC comprises most of the healthcare services a person might receive in their lifetime. It is also the most inclusive, equitable, cost-effective and efficient approach to enhance people’s physical and mental health, as well as social wellbeing. Because of this, PHC is being highly encouraged and strengthened in health systems globally, as reported by MBN. PHC encompasses three interrelated and synergistic components: comprehensive and integrated health services that embrace primary care and public health goods and function as central pieces; multi-sectoral policies and actions to address the upstream and wider determinants of health; and the engagement and empowerment of individuals, families and communities for increased social participation and enhanced self-care and self-reliance in health, according to WHO.
There are several players boosting the implementation of technology in the Mexican health ecosystem. For example, Mexican insurtech Sofía aims to foster prevention by managing the different stages of a health journey from first contact with a doctor to serious accidents.
“Access to PHC is the foundation for good healthcare. Combining PHC with insurance, which could cover long-term diseases, is key. Prevention and timely detection of serious diseases allow us to subsidize the cost of providing PHC. This combination links the financial incentive with people being healthier,” said Arturo Sánchez, CEO, Sofía.
Technology focused on improving PHC has also penetrated the Mexican B2B market, with companies such as Welbe Care offering a comprehensive wellbeing ecosystem that integrates artificial intelligence and human contact to ensure the physical and mental health of employees. “Twenty-one million from the 29 million Mexican employees only have access to public health. We aim to increase access and raise the quality of healthcare. Although in Mexico developing an integrated ecosystem will take time, we are empowering doctors and users, allowing the latter to track and access their medical data,” said Eduardo Medeiros, Co-Founder and CEO, Welbe Care.
PHC, which covers prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care, is the base of a health system’s structural transformation, according to the World Bank. To be effective, PHC should engage and empower individuals, families and communities for enhanced self-care and self-reliance in health, adds WHO.
Technology itself may not be enough to boost PHC in Mexico, said Mario Aguillón, Board of Members, AIM and Co-Founder, Zendala. “The question here is what do we need for our solutions to be adapted and adopted to Mexicans’ lifestyles.”
Another insurtech that has been working with telemedicine and digital healthcare solutions is Asistensi, a platform for emergency insurance and immediate medical assistance. Led by doctors, the company specializes in health and insurance plans and services with a commitment to generate value and quality of life for its users.
The way to foster PHC is through incentives, said Andrés González-Silén, Executive Chairman and Co-founder, Asistensi. “Medical emergencies are unexpected and usually cause a health and financial disaster when they happen. Through technology, we can offer telemedicine and home healthcare, besides other services. We foster PHC, which allows a greater admissibility to our insurance, that is now available for people up to 85 years,” he said.
Technology plays a key role in the democratization of healthcare services, by making them more accessible both by distance and financial issues. For instance, Mamotest, the first tele-mammogram network in Latin America, uses technology to promote social impact, aiming to drastically reduce breast cancer mortality.
“Technology is an enhancer of democratization, not only to healthcare access but to quality services. It allows us to become more efficient and lower costs. We seek the demonetization of services, such as mammograms, which would be able to reach millions of women if they are available at a very low cost,” said Guillermo Pepe, CEO, Mamotest.
Although the benefits of implementing technology in the health ecosystem are clear, companies face several barriers to do so in Mexico. Two of the main problems are the country’s disintegrated system and a cultural resistance from Mexicans to delve into their own health, said Medeiros.
In addition, regulations in Mexico are not keeping up with companies and the market in general, said Reverter.
While technology in the health sector has not penetrated as fast as it has in other industries in Mexico, it will break paradigms and democratize PHC in the near future, shifting the way people get access to healthcare in the country.