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EF: If 2020 was the year of diagnoses and 2021 the year of vaccines, what do you think will be the key talking points for 2022 in terms of health in Colombia?
MS: The main challenges for 2022 will be to continue strengthening a holistic vision of the patient in which we prioritize care, prevention, and disease palliation. In this, medical devices will have a leading role in each of the stages of medical care.
Remote health services during the pandemic intensified the use of digital medical devices and new diagnostic technologies as part of the digital transformation of the sector to promote innovative processes to meet health care needs. Health resources are scarce and must be optimized, thus it is a challenge for Colombia and the rest of the world to offer quality, timely and universal medical care that goes hand in hand with digital transformation processes.
There is a lag in the provision of health services because people didn’t go to hospitals during the pandemic because of the fear of contracting COVID, which is especially concerning in more complex chronic diseases that were not treated in a timely manner. Extramural care during the pandemic consisted of remote monitoring and home care, which encouraged the use of big data, artificial intelligence, and robotics. The accumulation of relevant information on health and behaviours became very useful in the provision of health services. Medical devices are getting closer to their users every day, allowing them to self-manage their health. Devices make users' forecasts more assertive through i) self-management in health and ii) collection of valuable information to generate predictability and provide pertinent and timely care.
The value-based care model generates health outcomes and indicators for assertive medical decision-making. By identifying patients with a certain pathology, you can monitor their behaviour, and reactions, improve the treatment plan, and do follow-ups to assess the patient's health status. Medical devices are very useful in data collection models to improve evidence-based decision-making, predictability, and therefore the optimization of resources.
EF: What are the key challenges healthcare and MedTech companies face in Colombia's current environment?
MS: Companies in the sector face various challenges that require work:
- The rules must be clear for legal stability, which is important for business dynamics.
- The technological development of medical devices advances faster than its regulation. A regulation that recognizes the advances of emerging technologies and guarantees the safety, quality, and efficacy of the product is required.
- The dynamics of the flow of resources in the health sector are fundamental to business dynamics.
- Promotion and prevention policies must be generated and promoted in the health sector.
ANDI's Chamber of Medical Devices is working on a project to strengthen production and investment capacities in the sector. We believe that the interaction of companies, academia, and public policies can promote favourable environments to manufacture and supply medical device products and services in Colombia. We need to attract foreign investment to manufacture or assemble parts and/or medical devices; as well as to strengthen productive capacities in a competitive way that promotes income generation for Colombia. We want companies with national, foreign, or mixed capital to be competitive in the international market and to be able to generate knowledge transfers and leave revenues that strengthen the development of the economy and well-being of the country. After Brazil and Mexico, Colombia is the country with local manufacturing of medical devices with low value-added content and even exports to the region in double digits, showing great competitive potential at the international level. Colombia has regional comparative advantages in terms of geographic location, trade agreements, regulatory compliance, and alignment with international standards. For example, Colombia has compliance with the ISO 13485 standard, a global quality management model, and provides excellent human resources, so we are not starting from scratch. Over the years, we will grow stronger.
EF: What is ANDI's role in designing and implementing a sustainable healthcare system in Colombia?
MS: It is our interest to continue offering safe and quality medical devices that are necessary for comprehensive medical care, supporting diagnosis and treatment processes that guarantee the country has a healthy and productive population. We promote good ethical business practices and dynamic interaction between all agents in the health sector, including scientific societies and academia. We have adapted to the circumstances of the pandemic and to the new way of relating with different agents of the health system. As part of our vision, we carry out permanent training and offer relevant technologies to Colombians for the best treatments.
EF: Considering Colombia imports 80 to 90% of the technology equipment, what needs to be done to attract investment and promote local production and self-reliance in Colombia?
MS: Given the technological advances of developed countries, we are dependent on imports, like the rest of the countries in the region. We believe that we can promote products and attract productive investment. Colombia stands out for innovative processes of soft technology (software), algorithms, devices for orthotics and orthopaedics; etc. Thanks to the trained human resource, although we have many opportunities for improvement, we see it feasible to advance in the manufacture of some medical devices with greater value-added content than the existing ones. This will be possible with the converging effort of industry, academia, and Government. We have started by mapping and identifying our strengths and working on connecting with advanced technology companies to create small processes, moving step by step towards our ultimate goal.
EF: Medical devices are becoming essential in homecare, prevention, control, robotics, telemedicine, etc., so how can ANDI Med Tech ensure the transformation of the sector and stakeholders?
MS: Members of the ANDI Medical Devices Chamber offer innovative medical technologies with the highest safety and quality standards in accordance with the needs of the population, such as emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, the printing of medical devices in 3D, 4D, telemonitoring, new materials; etc. These technological advances have not only made it possible to improve equality in access to health services, reaching not only institutions but also households and rural areas. The pertinent use of technology not only improves the health conditions of the population but also optimizes the resources of the health sector, always with the commitment to adhere to ethical business practices. We aim to generate investment that translates into the assembly of parts or final production of medical devices that generate income, employment, professionalization, and specialization of human resources, with the goal of offering internationally competitive medical devices produced in Colombia that are safe and of high quality.
EF: How is the use of technology, physician training, and education in technology progressing into the future?
MS: Although the country has made progress in structuring its human resource, it is necessary to strengthen its foundation so that it’s in tune with the demands of technological advances, so the adoption process occurs faster. Following the needs and demands of patients and users, Colombia is migrating to medical device supply processes that generate value in the provision of health services. Our model is no longer transactional but has migrated to a life cycle medical device model; its design, start-up process and marketing have generated value for the user and health service providers. The industry maintains permanent communication and training for users of medical devices to reduce adverse events due to improper use. Training and updating human resources on the use and adoption of new technologies is a joint task of the academy and, of course, of the manufacturers of medical devices for their strengthening and knowledge transfer.
EF: What achievements would you like to celebrate at the end of the year?
MS: For the upcoming months we hope to have a regulation in accordance with the characteristics of the sector and continue to offer safe and reliable medical devices in line with the needs of the population. We hope to strengthen the use of good ethical business practices and promote permanent communication with all agents in the health sector and the supply chain around a single objective: to improve the diagnosis and care of health services for patients. Improve equity and access through the rational use of medical devices and technological innovations that are at the service of patients, as the central axis of the health sector.