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EF: What attracted you to the health tech industry, and what would you define as your main mission as the CEO of Funcional Health Tech?

CG: In 2021, when I was still the General Manager of Teva Pharmaceuticals, I was invited to be a board member of Funcional and discovered the many opportunities of health tech. In the healthcare ecosystem, many actors are working isolated from each other. Health tech’s mission is to connect the dots and establish contact between the actors, enabling new opportunities.

Brazil is a very difficult landscape for private and public healthcare systems because of many external factors, like the aging of the population and the increase in the cost of healthcare after the pandemic. Prices have risen partly due to duties and import taxes on imported products. Health Tech can enhance system sustainability despite these economic challenges by offering valuable data insights.
At Funcional, we serve over 13 million daily users, gathering valuable data. We harness this data to deliver industry intelligence and insights across the sector, enhancing adherence, prevention, and patient support. Our seamless integration contributes to system sustainability.

EF: What is the state of digital adoption in Brazil, and what are the main challenges in this field?

CG: Brazil is one of the most digitally connected countries. As more than 90% of the population uses WhatsApp as the preferred channel of communication, we recently acquired a chatbot company to explore this use of technology further.  
This company works with independent pharmacies and smaller stores in remote regions. In some cases, these pharmacies saw up to a 200% increase in sales using WhatsApp for digital sales, aided by AI chatbots, allowing them to operate efficiently without 24/7 staffing. This technology is especially valuable for the elderly and those less familiar with e-commerce, making WhatsApp a pivotal tool for technology adoption in Brazil.

EF: Please tell us more about Funcional’s tailored solutions and strategic partnerships to create a digital structure for the healthcare ecosystem.

CG: We operate within the complete healthcare ecosystem, connecting with various stakeholders, including retailers, pharmacy chains, independent pharmacies, payers, pharma industry and healthcare providers. This network allows us to leverage their data while ensuring data protection compliance.

Our core focus is on the pharmaceutical industry, providing services to enhance the patient journey and improving adherence and access to medications.

As in the Brazilian healthcare system, wait times can be extensive, especially for public patients. We facilitate patient journeys, helping patients with information, treatment access, and diagnosis. Our integrated system allows physicians to select or include patients in this program and set eligible treatments in the private or public system.

We also address the complexity of Brazil’s pharmaceutical market being mainly out-of-pocket by generating promotional campaigns mainly for chronic patients and facilitating copayment options. For this, we seamlessly link with retailers, granting patients access to company-provided benefits through our digital or physical card, which they can use for their pharmacy purchases.  

Our specialized data division manages and analyzes data, collaborating with healthcare operators to import data related to patient costs during hospital journeys. We have the information of more than 7 million people in our system and offer this valuable data to healthcare operators and the pharmaceutical industry, empowering them to take data driven decisions and improve patient outcomes while creating cost-efficient structures. Our goal is to build economically sustainable healthcare solutions where all parties benefit.

EF: What data-driven healthcare improvements is Funcional still looking to explore?

CG: Our vision focuses on three pillars. The first one is digital transformation. Our customers needs more digital solutions and tools to reach patients, and we want to catalyze this evolution.  

Secondly, we actively explore ways to enhance the patient experience by connecting the healthcare industry with patients. This could involve streamlining the purchase process, facilitating access, and improving negotiations for better pricing. We aim to place the patient at the center of their healthcare journey and provide them with the necessary information and resources.  

Our extensive network includes over 50,000 point-of-sale retailers, 1,600 clinical laboratories, and nearly 200 wholesalers, all integrated into our platform. The challenge is to leverage this ecosystem to prioritize the patient's needs.
Lastly, our vision is to incorporate AI directly into existing platforms, making data more actionable and insightful. We aim to extend these benefits to patients, giving them access to AI-driven insights that can help them monitor treatment adherence and address potential issues.

EF: What skills does Funcional seek in new hires, and how do you attract top talent?

CG: Finding talent is challenging because we need a blend of skills. Soft skills like accountability, execution, and business thrive are key. Understanding the customers is vital to connecting their needs with technology effectively. Nevertheless, we also require tech experts to execute our ambitious visions.  

At Funcional, we understand the importance of a strong work culture. We have maintained remote work, which is essential for our tech staff and fosters their motivation and focus on developing technologies. In this structure, leaders are challenged to guide people in and outside the company and have a critical role in transmitting purpose and the impact of our work on society. Only the leaders can gauge how people are feeling and determine their engagement with the company.

In monthly meetings with our leadership team, we build common strategies to strengthen connections and keep everyone motivated.

EF: What advice would you give the young generation, particularly women, striving to have a career in the healthcare industry?

CG: To succeed in the healthcare industry, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the market and your target audience. You do not need to be an expert in everything, but having a broad view of the healthcare system is essential. This includes identifying payers, key market players, and the driving market forces.  

For women entering the industry, the landscape has become more welcoming. Compared to when I started my career when women in leadership positions were scarce, we now see women occupying about 30 percent of such roles in the pharma industry. However, there is still room for improvement.

To break into new positions or roles, it is important to take initiative and not wait for others to notice your potential. You should proactively express your career aspirations and engage with leaders or mentors who can guide you in achieving your goals. Take ownership and take your space. With determination and engagement, you can achieve your career objectives.  

November 2023