10 Key Healthcare IT trends for 2018 in LATAM (I)
Instead of making predictions for 2018, I will list a few elements to consider by those that work in the segment of information technologies applied to the Health Sector in Latin America.
These points are observations based on my experience of the market through conversations with countless clients, academics and entrepreneurs, my reading of RFI/RFP or even discussions with other professionals in the sector.
1. Electoral year that may propel modernization
2018 is an electoral year in Latin America.
The Chilean President is starting his new term in office and the calendar is filled with presidential elections: Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela. Other countries, like Peru, have regional and municipal elections. These political cycle changes, especially in countries that drive Latin America (Mexico and Brazil) are accompanied by a thrust in the modernization of the Health Sector, which at times is left aside but is still an important element to consider when forecasting the future of eHealth in these countries in the coming years.
2. Limited digital transformation
Digital Transformation in Hospitals. Communication channels are bombarding us with the subject. Under this huge umbrella, a large quantity of public and private initiatives is developed in the region, even in some cases one could question whether it is a “transformation” or a mere digitization of basic processes.
If we are to be strict with the concept, I am afraid that we will see few serious full hospital transformation initiatives in Latin America, with a great likelihood that these cases shall occur in “top” private hospitals in Brazil, Chile or Colombia, with a few isolated cases in Mexico, Argentina or Costa Rica. However, the main limitation is not hardware or software, but rather the “brainware,” or the attitude and capacity of our sectorial leaders in refreshing old practices and deeply-rooted models in a sector that tends to be conservative in its business processes.
3. Increased computerization of public health networks
A pressure is sustained by the demand, both public and private, for the deployment of interoperable electronic health record systems (EHR). The public hospital sector in Latin America continues to be a laggard in terms of EHR deployments, with serious difficulties in funding the modernization process due to, among other causes, economic instability in a few countries, failures of previous projects, lack of specialized personnel and short-sightedness and limited compromise of the government with eHealth. However, there are reasons for optimism and one may find notable public efforts to promote eHealth policies and national deployments of Electronic Health Record platforms, as in the case of Uruguay or Mexico, and the SINBA project may be a good point of reference for other countries to break out from their inertia.
We hope that the newly elected governments in the region in 2018 take concrete steps that go further than the usual modernization rhetoric. However, in 2018 we will see new public initiatives for the deployment of EHR systems led by local, provincial and/or regional governments. Likewise, to the extent that we continue to digitize Health Records, there will be more interest in inter-center clinical and administrative data exchange initiatives, with local, municipal, regional and national projects.
Previous experiences, such as the one promoted by Mexico City in the last couple of years, may provide a regional benchmark and propel this type of project in other Latin American capital cities.
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