Increasing access to healthcare services is a common goal for many players in the sector, but individual areas are implementing their own strategy to address the problem. At Mexico Health Summit 2019 on Thursday, representatives from major areas of the sector discussed integrative strategies that can bring different players together to increase access to health.

The panelists at Papalote Museo del Niño discussed the priorities that must be addressed if the country is to step closer to the elusive goal of achieving universal care. The challenge is not simple. “Mexico has a complex epidemiological profile as it must treat infectious diseases that are more common to emerging economies and non-communicable diseases that are more prevalent in richer countries,” said Americo García, Director General of Mexico and Latin America at Apotex.

The common problem for the sector as a whole, however, is obvious but equally difficult: money. Among all OECD countries, Mexico has the second-lowest investment in healthcare as a percentage of its GDP. “An essential issue to achieve universal care is financing,” said Ignacio García-Téllez, Director of Health Sector of KPMG in Mexico.

The problem will likely be exacerbated after recent budget cuts and regulatory changes that could further hurt an already fragmented system. Help could come from beyond the government. “The federal budget for many areas including healthcare is shrinking, so private industry can support the public sector,” said Alejandro Gil, Director General of Centro Médico Puerta de Hierro.

While public institutions provide care for most Mexicans, the quality and quantity of services they provide varies widely by institution. This has pushed many toward the private sector. Today, out of pocket expenditure surpasses 40 percent of the country’s total healthcare expenditure, a high number in comparison to other OECD countries. Moreover, only about 8 million Mexican have health insurance, a low number according to García-Téllez. While Gil supports the generation of public-private alliances (PPAs) to reduce spending and increase efficiency, Macedonio Garza, Director General of Farmacias Benavides, proposed a complementary strategy: “Doctors at the point of sale play an important role in increasing access to care, especially for primary care.”

While partnerships with the public sector will benefit patients, alliances among players from different industries are also key. However, the spirit of collaboration must begin with players from the same segment. Gil explained this need in terms of his own industry. “Private hospitals need better integration because most operate individually.” Operating as partners instead of competitors can result in many benefits for hospitals and patients. “For instance, in the US, hospital groups can perform consolidated acquisitions that reduce costs and allow them to offer less expensive medications to patients.”

The panelists agreed that optimizing budgets was a key element in allowing their segments to increase access. Alejandro Paolini, Director General of Siemens Healthineers for Mexico, Central America and Caribbean, took this idea one step further. “To increase the efficiency of the healthcare budget, it must be redirected toward prevention. Every peso spent on prevention saves three pesos that would have been spent on treatment. Investing in prevention would allow for better results with the same budget.”

To implement these strategies, the sector needs a stable playing field to plan. “Mexico needs a clear regulatory framework that allows all players to put the patient at the center of attention,” said García. To achieve this, the sector needs an efficient regulator. “The regulator plays an essential role in the healthcare sector because it must balance protecting the patient’s health while ensuring they have access to innovative medications. A regulator that is too strong will limit access. A regulator that is too lax places the public at risk,” said Paolini.

The entire healthcare sector requires a fundamental change that integrates the efforts from a diverse range of areas, from R&D to distribution. A tool that is touted for its benefits across sectors is technology. “Technology provides significant advances in many areas, including diagnostics, helping doctors to diagnose diseases faster and improve the patient’s life expectancy while reducing costs. In terms of treatment, technology can permit minimally invasive surgeries that turn procedures that required hospitalizations for five or six days in ambulatory care, greatly increasing the patient’s comfort and reducing hospitalization costs,” said Paolini.

While panelists agreed that technology can increase efficiency across many sectors, García pointed to an even more essential need. “What is necessary is not technology, but will. Mexican players need the will to work and collaborate to develop integrated strategies that benefit patients across the country.”

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