By Annabel Beyra, APR

Thought leaders in health care delivery shared their thoughts on the trends and innovations in health care in Latin America, during a recent business gathering hosted by WorldCity in Miami.

A major theme of the discussion focused on how wearables and enhanced Internet connectivity were providing opportunities for more access and improved response times when treating potentially life threatening conditions.

Mauricio Ortiz of Boston Scientific cited how doctors are implementing iPads into their practices where full patient information is available at their fingertips. He also recognized how Facetime is becoming a method of intervention. The challenge then becomes addressing how these new methods will be paid for. Does the patient pay for this or does the insurance company? Industrialized health care delivery — meaning providing health care for groups of patients, rather than one-on-one – is one way to make treatment delivery financially feasible for health care practitioners, particularly in remote locations where access is difficult.

Part of the challenge device and pharmaceutical manufacturers are facing is making products more affordable in a system where cost inflation happens later on in the distribution chain, making costs prohibitive for the payer. In many markets in Latin America, the most important payer is government where health subsidies are common. On the other hand, these governments are pressuring manufacturers to deliver as much value to the equation as possible.

Reliable connectivity is also key when it comes time to reviewing medical imaging. Ortiz added, “We will get to good technology but need a doctor and patient on the other end. Other technology advances such as data mining will eventually help with price setting and even offer life saving and preventive health applications, such as predicting stroke rate by zip code, for example. Further, the allocation of resources for tele-health is increasing in efficiencies, making it possible to deliver health care no matter where a patient resides in the world.

In terms of regional challenges, Guillaume Corpart of Global Health Intelligence cited the disparities across the region. In Chile for example, there are many small hospitals that have integrated technology to a greater extent compared to their neighboring countries. Also, in Brazil, for example, there’s a strong universal health care system, yet in Mexico not so much, especially when considering approximately 40% of expenses come out of a patient’s pocket.

Fabrice Chouraqui of Novartis Pharmaceuticals made mention of the billions of dollars in research companies like Novartis invest in order to bring quality pharmaceutical therapies to markets. Since many patients cannot afford or don’t have access to these therapies, a partnership with government becomes vital.

Governments are acutely aware that they need to invest in a healthy workforce to make their economies more attractive for investment.

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