The benefits of technology are numerous for physicians and patients alike and the Mexican healthcare system is no different. “New technological developments are empowering doctors, nurses and patients,” said Angela Spatharou, Partner at McKinsey & Company, during the Data and Technology at the Service of Healthcare panel at Mexico Health Summit 2016.
Technological developments in the healthcare system can be grouped into areas like data analytics and digital engagement, which allows doctors to connect with patients remotely and in real time. “Remote care” is also empowering patients to take control of their own healthcare through features like mobile apps to monitor diabetes, among other conditions, while the cloud has allowed medical institutions to share real-time data allowing physicians to make better and faster decisions.
Spatharou praised these advances but regretted that they have not reached Mexico. While technology is important in every sector, there needs to be a special focus on healthcare, said Francisco Morales, Healthcare Division Director at 3M. “An aging, sicker population will lead to the rupture of any healthcare system,” added Gonzalo Maroto, National Account Manager at GE Healthcare. Alejandro Paolini, Managing Director at Siemens Healthineers Mesoamerica, agreed. “Without innovation, the healthcare system will collapse in 10 years.”
Another problem is the healthcare system’s existing priorities. Martín Ferrari del Sel, Director General at Dräger, mentioned a recent discussion with IMSS’ representatives where he felt that the institution was looking for short-term solutions while “it is necessary to start planning for the next 10 years.”
Still, there has been progress and data and technology have already brought benefits to many Mexicans. Maroto mentioned the evolution of tomography to detect breast cancer as an example. This tool has advanced significantly, allowing diagnosis at a much earlier stage and leading to less invasive and less expensive therapies and a higher life expectancy for patients. But Mexico needs innovative strategies to allow greater access to healthcare and technology. “Digitalization increases quality and efficiency of healthcare” by providing instant access to large amounts of real-time information which can help doctors make better decisions and reduce decision-making times, Maroto said.
The country still has a long road ahead for both the implementation of these systems and the acquisition of medical devices, said Ferrari. Challenges range from the financial to the technical. Economic hurdles include a limited healthcare budget, which is not exclusive to Mexico. “All healthcare systems across the world face budget restraints,” said Morales. All panel members agreed that new equipment must improve clinically and operationally without ignoring the financial aspect. While new technologies may be more expensive it is necessary to demonstrate to healthcare systems that they will bring savings in operations, even after considering their cost, said Morales.
In Mexico, data collection systems have evolved at an uneven rate and were developed by different organizations so data is not stored in the same place or in a similar format, complicating the introduction of new technologies and making this process more expensive. Maroto highlighted the importance of reaching a consensus among technology developers so information can be easily communicated across different hardware and software. Ferrari agreed. Communication failure across different pieces of equipment brings about economic loss and can endanger a patient, he said. “By digitalizing information to the cloud, the danger is reduced.”
Good communication among systems can even protect patients by predicting potential vulnerability, said Maroto.
Contributed piece by Alicia Arizpe.