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Access to healthcare is a challenge beyond the Brazil Games

The eyes of the world are slowly turning away from the Brazil Games. For two weeks the four yearly sporting extravaganza has shown us the best of human endeavor: it has brought sporting excellence and joyous crowds to Brazil’s capital city, which has been a very fine host.

For Brazil this was a unique opportunity to showcase what is best about the country – its culture, vibrancy and confidence – but it was also an opportunity to discuss the challenges it faces too, particularly in health care. 


Since the early 2000s, Latin America and the Caribbean has seen meaningful progress toward universal health coverage with an additional 46 million people in nine countries having at least nominal guarantees of affordable health care.


Regional health challenges

Across the Latin America region governments are trying to improve their healthcare systems, within tight budgets and harsh global conditions.


Despite expanding population coverage and access to health services, the poor remain badly underserved: around 30% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean do not have access to health care for economic reasons and 21% do not because of geographical barriers.


According to the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the World Bank inadequate attention is being paid to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that account for most deaths in the region.


Brazil already lacks sufficient health care infrastructure in addition to a chronic shortage of health care professionals and confidence in the healthcare system appears to be at a low. In a 2013 poll, 48 percent of respondents placed healthcare above education, corruption, violence, and unemployment as Brazil’s biggest problem. Patients and healthcare professionals don’t see a system that works well for them. 

Brazil’s performance on FHI

We recently launched the results of the first edition of the Future Health Index (FHI), an extensive international study which explores how countries around the world are positioned to meet long-term global health challenges through integration and connected care technologies.


The study looked at the perceptions of healthcare systems among patients and healthcare professionals surveyed in 13 countries. Brazil was one of those countries and you can find out more and explore some of the survey’s data here.


So what did the FHI tell us? Brazil ranked 12 out of 13 countries worldwide, driven down by significantly below average access to care across the health continuum. Only 12% of patients and 2% of HCPs surveyed in Brazil agree that the healthcare available to them meets patient needs. Brazil’s health care system scores significantly lower on this mark and is in fact the lowest rating of the 13 countries surveyed.


Patients are more likely to agree that the private health system in Brazil takes better care of their needs than the public health system.


The role of PPP

The solutions are not easy. Increased public financing and improved efficiency are seen as a way to expand access to care in order to cope with rapidly aging populations and the rising burden of NCDs.


While some markets in Latin America have made improvements in the delivery of healthcare in the last decade, we are convinced that a radical transformation of health systems is needed to realize the goal of efficiency as well as equitable and affordable access.


The need for more efficiency throughout the region’s health systems, not just Brazil’s, means looking at connected solutions too and the role innovation has to play in healthcare access in all of its forms.


That extends to new collaborative models, such as public private partnerships (PPPs), which are being more broadly used in healthcare across Latin America to enable the sector to meet future healthcare needs and demands as well as ignite innovations that can impact the lives of Latin Americans.


Due to the complexity of health systems, it is paramount that all transformations are done in partnership and are grounded in innovation along the entire continuum of health. One of the recommendations made in a recent PwC report on PPP in the region cited that a valuable lesson was that medical equipment and IT should be bundled into PPP contracts for the life of the contract.


Philips has a PPP on Imaging Diagnosis in the state of Bahia, Brazil which is doing 183,000 exams in one year across the public state network. The partnership is reaching 11 hospitals and was established for more than 10 years with an investment of 1 billion Reais. As rewarding as it is to see those results, the PPP landscape is still nascent here although we hope to see big strides forward in the coming years.


As the memories linger from the Games and the wonderful spectacle that the country put on for the world, let’s not bypass the huge challenges that lie ahead for our region as it continues to reform healthcare systems to better serve its people.

Daniel Mazon

Senior vice president of Philips Healthcare Latin America

Daniel Mazon have been working at Philips since September 2011 as Vice President of Image Systems. In May 2014 he assumed the senior vice president position of Philips Healthcare Latin America, as industry and market leader. Graduated in engineer by Texas A & M University and with MBA by the University of Miami and specialized in business management by Harvard Business School. He began his career in the United States working with sales and marketing, with experience on operations, quality, business strategy, product development and industrial area. With 16 years of experience in healthcare, the executive has accumulated experience in countries like Mexico and the United States.

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