According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we live in a region where there are more than 150 million people who have problems accessing health services, either due to geographic or economic reasons. Before the pandemic and in an incipient way, some changes were beginning in the way of trying to care for health, but according to specialists, the right moment to observe significant changes is now, after a pandemic that transformed the perception of health.
“At that time, teleconsultation, which is only part of the telemedicineit was an important area of opportunity because there were very few developments at that time and there were practically no companies fully focused on this issue in the region”, explains Pablo Utrera, CEO of DOC24, a startup that was born in 2016 with the purpose of democratizing access to health through technological innovation.
Utrera explains that for them it was a very important moment to think about solutions. “We arrived doing about 5,000 monthly visits in February 2020, at the peak of the pandemic it was about 250,000 visits, which was a quantum leap.” But beyond just a greater adoption of this type of technology, the possibility of a next step was given, that is, “how do we build an ecosystem of solutions applied to health care that allow us to accompany the patient at different times of the care, from prevention to monitoring the patient at home”.
In this context, they developed technology and subsequently a business model that is precisely based on helping any organization that wants to improve the health service for its beneficiaries and manage it.
How to pay to democratize health?
Utrera shares that the health (a term that refers to the application of information and communication technologies for health care), would allow the democratization of health due to its scope. “Today what predominates in the field of telemedicine is episodic medical attention that is very useful when the patient has an ailment that afflicts him, however what is sought is a comprehensive vision of health problems”, how do you achieve this?
He said that it is about thinking how much more comprehensive care models can be generated from technology, covering different moments of care and prevention, for example, they have created solutions with artificial intelligence that allow from a facial reading that lasts 30 seconds , take some vital signs and make a mark of the patient’s general state of well-being, this allows early detection of some situations that may deserve the patient’s attention.
Smart clinics, which are telemedicine stations that can be installed in shopping malls, corporate buildings, or in passenger terminals.
Smaller devices, for multi-diagnosis that allow connecting primary health care centers, where there are normally general practitioners or nursing staff, with specialist doctors who can be anywhere. The plus is being able to perform physical examinations of the patient in real time, with cameras that allow skin analysis, ear examination, see the patient’s throat, oximeter and other elements that practically manage to do what a doctor could do in terms of a consult and carry out the work without the need to be physically present.
“These solutions, for example, can be thought of for clinics attached to pharmacies or within public health, within our countries, which today are neglected due to geographic issues.”
Lastly, developments for telerehabilitation, that is, that a patient monitored by a camera can do the rehabilitation exercise and that the physiatrist, for example, can obtain valuable information such as the opening angles, so that the patient achieves the movement that it is indicated and that in this way a portion of the treatments can be carried out from home, so important for patients that it is difficult to transfer.
These types of interventions also allow the patient to be involved in their own health and manage it.
The context of EHealth or ESalud
In Mexico, approximately 45% of health care comes out of your own pocket, even for those who have some type of coverage, out-of-pocket costs are high. This in turn has a dissuasive effect for preventive care, “people wait to have symptoms.” In a survey conducted by Doctoraliaonly 20% of Mexicans make preventive consultations, “therefore the potential to add value to the service that a Mexican is receiving in terms of their health is broad, in addition to better experiences, more agile, convenient to the pocket and with a better service”.
Digital health services today appear as a solution with great potential for health care that thousands of people require, in Mexico since March 24, 2021, the Initiative with a Draft Decree for the that the Digital Health Law is issued, which would establish the bases to regulate the activities and services related to health provided through information technologies, however, it is still under discussion and without being approved.
This would allow the consolidation of a legal body that gives certainty to all the actors involved in it and would establish the conditions for the access and development of digital health.
Despite having today the National Digital Strategy (EDN), whose Objective 4 is Universal and Effective Health, which establishes a digital policy to take advantage of ICTs and increase coverage, effective access and quality of health services; it requires a Law that supports it, since today there are limited advances in the General Health Law and some scattered aspects in secondary regulation, such as official standards, therefore, the sector is still without adequate regulation.