Javier Okhuysen, Director General of salauno, spoke with Mexico Health Review on the main vision problems affecting Mexicans and what can be done to address them.
Q: How are vision disabilities impacting Mexicans and how is salauno addressing these issues?
A: Vision problems are the second cause of disability in Mexico. Approximately 2.5 million people suffer from cataracts. salauno provides surgery for all types of vision problems, but cataracts represent 50 percent of our surgical volume. Cataract surgery is proven to have a positive effect on the patient’s quality of life.
At salauno, we also provide surgeries for glaucoma, retina, LASIK, eyelids and ophthalmic pediatrics. The company has faced many hurdles; for instance, Peña Nieto’s government removed cataracts from the Seguro Popular’s Catastrophic Funds, which was a grave hit for us. However, we have received great support from our employees and investors, which has allowed us to prevail. We are investigating the possibility of expanding our model to other medical specialties since about 70 percent of our practice could be transferred to different types of surgery.
Q: What are the main access barriers to cataract surgery?
A: Geography is one of the main barriers. Our objective is to bring eye surgeries to the population by establishing more clinics to overcome these geographical hurdles. Another issue is misinformation, as many people believe that these surgeries are not safe. We strive to educate both patients and general doctors regarding the benefits of surgery to ensure that patients come to us before it is too late. The last barrier is economic. Often, low-income patients are unable to afford the surgery but at public hospitals they face long wait times to receive attention.
Q: How has salauno expanded its operations?
A: We have 240 employees at 11 clinics and a 4,000m2 surgical center. Our goal is to provide surgery for 25 to 30 percent of the annual eye surgeries by 2025. The government is taking great strides in the eye-care area but the need remains enormous. The public healthcare sector represents 20 percent of our sales. While we would like this percentage to increase to 30 percent, our business model is perfectly sustainable without the participation of the public sector. salauno has grown at a healthy pace during its six years of existence. Our motto is, “do well by doing good.” For that reason, we implemented a program that provides free or subsidized surgeries per every certain number of paid surgeries. We are also working with Fundación Cinépolis and several public institutions, including Seguro Popular in Hidalgo, Mexico City and State of Mexico and IMSS, ISSSTE and PEMEX.
Q: How is salauno redefining healthcare and the business of providing care?
A: Two years ago, we decided that the solution to the lack of access was not only to build a large number of clinics throughout Mexico but to take advantage of technological trends. We have created electronic clinical files specifically for ophthalmology and based on a customer relationship-management platform that allowed us to greatly improve the way we attract patients through our digital platforms. We can now provide follow-ups using cellphone messaging and email, allowing us to be in constant contact with patients. We are also developing an app that incorporates both healthcare and financial services to the benefit of our patients. To become a technological company will be a continuous process. We are exploring many areas, including using artificial intelligence in the interpretation of electronic clinical files to help doctors with their decision-making process.