Read the Conversation

EF: What will 2022 be the year of?

HV: During 2020, we missed a lot of diagnostics as people were staying at home and taking care of themselves without having the option to attend consultations or the hospital. 2022 will be the year of diagnostics as it will be the time when people will get back to their check-ups. People will be diagnosed with conditions that started during the pandemic and were not detected earlier. There are also people that were diagnosed before the pandemic with conditions that have further developed as they were not being treated or taken care of. 2022 is a year of getting people back to healthcare and reassessing the importance of our bodies and health in our lives.

Demand in Hospitals will increase as they will be catching up with what was not checked before taking care of patients with COVID.  I have been working with IMSS and SUA on addressing this demand. During the pandemic, the only disease having an early diagnosis was lung cancer, due to the RX that was used to see the impact of COVID on the lungs. This is an extremely good time for AI to jump in and help with delayed diagnostics. As we foresee an increasing demand, it is imperative to find solutions to increase access. There is plenty of room for leveraging technologies in healthcare, and this is part of the back to the future of healthcare, leapfrogging with patient care.

EF: Can you elaborate on the role you had during the pandemic?

HV: We coordinated efforts between the private and public sectors to work together. We need to continue working on three fronts within the Healthcare System. First, increase access to healthcare professionals. Secondly, develop the infrastructure for the future, and thirdly, reduce the gap between pharmaceuticals and devices across healthcare systems. In Mexico, the first step in access to healthcare is to get a consultation with a GP, and after a possible diagnosis, one would be referred to a specialist. We see that access to healthcare is widely developed in the main cities, compared to smaller cities across Mexico. As an example, Mexico has under one thousand endocrinologists in the country, and with diabetes being the number one disease, we should have more and better distributed throughout the country. What we must look for in technology is how to bring the physicians closer to the population when they need it via telemedicine and telehealth.  

It is also important to increase access to infrastructure in rural areas and ensure equal access in both the private and public healthcare systems. Thirdly, we see that there is an imbalance between access to pharmaceuticals and medical devices between the healthcare systems in Mexico.  

What we found at Funsalud was the need for physicians to be educated on how to treat COVID. We worked with Canciller Ebrard (Secretary of Foreign Affairs) to create an initiative where the private sector worked together with the government to bring to Mexico enough ventilators to distribute them across the country. Mexico had around 4000 equipment at the time and we were able to duplicate the equipment with private donors. We developed a movement called “Juntos Por la Salud” with Ebrard, Memo Torre from Tecsalud, Facultad de Medicina, UNAM with Germán Fajardo, Grupo Femsa with Antonio Gonzalez Fernandez, and Funsalud. We four started the movement and then 600 companies joined to support Mexico during the pandemic. We are a think tank in public policy, and we developed a programme together with the Consejo de Salubridad General, then with IMSS, and then with the Foreign Secretary Ebrard, to be able to transfer patients from public to private institutions. We defined a selection of six interventions which were patients that were moved into the private practices to allow room for COVID patients within the public system. We sat public and private together, from private the Asociación Nacional de Hospitales Privados and el Consorcio Mexicano de Hospitales to work together. We sat at the negotiations and then developed a system that would transfer patients from one institution to the other. It was a full process in which the patient was transferred from public to private.  

EF: Going into other sectors, what advice would you give to increase collaboration?

HV: You must have a clear assessment of what is needed from one sector and the other, that must be a very transparent process. Then, you need to have people that are really willing to make it happen. It was very refreshing for us to see the effort done by IMSS and Ebrard in pushing things forward. What was also critical was the private sector understanding the situation and being willing to work with the government, despite no profits being made.  

EF: How do you see the role of healthcare in recovering the economy in Mexico?

HV: 2022 and the years to come have a big role to play in diagnostics; there are several issues to work through regarding diagnostics, one of them is mental health which was left behind. Healthcare will have the role of bringing people back to a healthy enough level to ensure optimal productivity levels. What I foresee is a country where the healthcare system invests in trying to do the best diagnoses, helping the process of going through each health issue. If we are healthier then we are more productive, so we must make sure that everyone is conscious that being productive means being optimal from a health perspective. Health is the first thing you need to develop a society and start building on top. Health is not only physical but mental, too.

There is a lot of space to create a balance between the public and the private sector, there is a big chance for hospital chains to be developed and private healthcare institutions to grow. Vaccines also have a role and must continue to be pushed forward. Vaccines, early diagnosis, and pharmaceutical products are critical to allow the system to work smoothly.

EF: How can we increase the importance of non-communicable diseases?

HV: The pandemic period has shown the relevance of healthcare, and I think people should be more aware of non-communicable diseases. Now is when people are going to see the relevance of non-communicable diseases. There are other factors too which will contribute to this, such as lifestyle changes during the pandemic which resulted in less physical exercise. Non-communicable diseases developed during the pandemic and it is time to showcase the relevance of non-communicable diseases. The population is becoming more conscious of mental health throughout the pandemic, but there is still work to be done. Now is a good time to value the importance of Mental Health.  

EF: What do you think is necessary for Mexico to become a hub for healthcare in Latin America?

HV: Legal certainty will be the foundation to develop Mexico as a Hub for Healthcare in Latin America. Investors and Business leaders need to have confidence that the direction of a country is steady, predictable, and attractive. Looking at healthcare, it is the regulatory authorities’ performance and the status of the regulatory agency that will drive investment. The level of sophistication, agility, and level of investments needed are important to make sure that the process is easy. Mexico could be placed as a healthcare hub for Pharmaceutical production and biotech. Another potential area of investment is to develop a balance between private and public sectors and find how we can work in putting the private investors in developing hospital chains. Mexico also has space in the clinical laboratories sector and is seeing more being developed.

March 2022