Marianela Santos Flores
Director General
Health Angel Monitor Systems
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View from the Top

Telehealth Startup Aims to Inspire Market Development

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 10:47

Q: How advanced is telehealth in Mexico compared to the rest of the Americas?

A: Telehealth refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. While telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuous medical education, in addition to clinical services. In Mexico, there is a general impression that telehealth programs are exclusively for audio or videoconferences and image sharing. In reality these are just a subset of a vast area that public and private health institutions could take advantage of to make a difference either in prevention or in patient health recovery. Mexico is still not aware of the full potential of these technologies, leaving us behind other countries in Latin America, such as Costa Rica, Colombia, and Chile. I believe this will improve over the next three to four years. This technology is inexpensive and easy to access from any mobile device. One of our main aims is to prove that developing start-ups in Mexico is possible for everyone.

Q: How was Health Angel Monitor Systems born?

A: I have created a total of eight spinoff companies in the telecommunications industry, including the telemedicine startup. I conceived the idea of creating a monitoring service with the value proposition of allowing medical practitioners from different specialties to monitor patient vital signs and other indicators remotely, so as to develop new levels of service. I saw more than 200 similar applications in Europe, but none of them could be specifically applied to Mexico, so I had to develop one to address our specific needs. The device developed has sensors that are able to detect up to 25 different inputs from humans, such as ECG 12 Leads, temperature, and heart rate, through one easily to handle and portable medium. This information is sent in real time to our secure cloud from any mobile device, and is afterwards made available to doctors to enable remote diagnosis. I began this with a partner in Silicon Valley, and we took three years to develop the device in an Italian university. With the support of INADEMS and CONACYT I developed a two-year strategy alongside MIT to create the software and the hardware.

Q: How do you envisage the system being utilized?

A: The system comprises software that records and sends the information and hardware that collects it. The hardware can be variable, as many different devices and sensors can be used. The platform will eventually be able to receive information from any device in the market. We are mainly focused on providing services with the software and integration. Once installed and configured, the platform advises the doctor who will provide medical attention from a remote location. An example use area is dermatology where 90% of prescriptions are OTC so it would be easy for dermatologists to diagnose and prescribe remotely. Doctors in those pharmacies will simply need to apply the sensors to the patient, which will collect and send all the necessary information to the cloud where a specialist will be able to remotely download and interpret it. The technology is being implemented in hospitals and pharmacies. The service will be completely free for patients as it will be funded by a third party, possibly the pharmacies themselves.

Q: How well regulated is this area right now?

A: COFEPRIS is currently not regulating telehealth devices at the required speed to trigger market growth and cover different needs, but the commission is expected to be involved in the regulation of medical gear and services used in telehealth. We are collaborating with COFEPRIS to create Mexican regulations for these systems. This process has moved slowly, however, as the market is not fully aware of the benefits of these products and services. We have already received approval from some European regulatory agencies, among others.

Q: What are your expansion plans?

A: We are going to use the contact center with the platform already developed to rapidly expand regionally to countries that are already open to this technology. We are also starting a project with the Mexican Consulate–General in California where we will monitor the health of Mexicans living in the US. This program aims to provide medical advice for Mexicans who may not speak English or have insurance. An electrocardiogram costs about US$1,300 in California but our service will be available for free at the consulate and will provide patients medical information online and in Spanish.