In recent years, healthcare in Latin America has become more digitized to support health trends occurring in the region. These include an increase in the aging population, increases in obesity which lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart conditions, and the Millennial generation that is resistant to the traditional healthcare methods wanting information results in real-time via mobile devices. Knowing such health issues and needs from the population, healthcare providers in Latin American countries are responding by looking more into technologies that can help them build better relationships with their patients, as well as programs to help people stay out of the hospital through preventive care options.
In Mexico, for example, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity. The Government responded by adopting one of the most comprehensive government programs to date. The program is focused on three areas: improved public health and surveillance; better medical care for people with chronic diseases; regulation and fiscal measures.
Talking Tech to Hospitals
In August, I visited Latin America to meet with SAP customers and speak at the SAP Spotlight Tour in Brazil. I experienced firsthand the growth within this vibrant region. Specifically, hospitals want to integrate their IT systems to achieve quality outcomes for patients. It may seem hard to believe, but the main goal of a hospital is to prevent people from being re-admitted. If someone returns to the hospital following a procedure, it means the care they received did not work and this can result in poor patient relationships.
Just as in a retail situation, if a person is not happy with the service they received they will not revisit the store. And if any one of us or our family members become patients, we certainly don’t want to be in a situation where someone needs to be admitted to the hospital; we want to ensure that when we do need to enter a hospital for treatment that the care received is the best.
When speaking to hospitals about optimizing their operations I address five major components:
1) Digital Core
This is a hospital’s IT infrastructure or platform, where they can manage their financials and supply chain, as well as integrate specific applications for patient engagement and their electronic medical records solution for patients.
2) Patient Engagement
This is about lowering re-admissions by providing patients with tools and advice so they become more engaged about their health and are better able to prevent health issues.
This starts by finding and hiring qualified staff and ensuring they receive ongoing learning opportunities to help them provide better services and outcomes for patients. A global study entitled “Workforce 2020” by Oxford Economics surveyed executives and employees to gauge the future of the workforce in healthcare. The study found that 48% of healthcare employees get ample training on workplace technology, but only 32% get access to the latest technology. To achieve patient engagement hospital staff needs access to new technologies.
4) Internet of Things and Big Data
Here is where a hospital can shine and truly engage with their patients with innovative technologies; for example, hospitals can track a patient’s individual health data via sensor technology. Roche Diabetes Care developed a preventive program for people prone to getting diabetes to help track their glucose levels. The data collected is visible by their physicians to help make instant therapy decisions. Doctor visits are dramatically reduced as a result. Use of devices in tracking vitals have been positively received by patients. One might put this in the category of personalized medicine, because an individual’s medical data is being tracked and recorded to make real-time decisions and treatment options. Personalization produces better outcomes, helping people get better faster.
5) Digital Network
A well-run digital network is key, as this is where all of the above work together, seamlessly. A hospital becomes part of this network, which embodies the complete cycle of care for a patient.
I believe the above five components encapsulate the vision of healthcare, or what I would call “the hospital of the future”. Hospitals in Latin America responded very well to this, as did reporters and analysts that I met at the SAP Spotlight tour.
Committed to Healthcare
SAP helps healthcare providers in all of these areas. And we are partnering with leaders in their fields to find ways where technology can provide better treatments and healthier outcomes for patients through personalized and precision medicine.
It is an exciting time in healthcare, but also a challenging time. To make the vision of improved healthcare a reality, many obstacles must still be overcome. One important obstacle faced by hospitals in Latin America and the rest of the world is cyber security. This is an entirely new focus area that I will address in a future blog post.
One last point I wish to make is how healthcare intersects with sports and youth – – the focus of the SAP Spotlight tour in Brazil. I mentioned above how Millennials play a role in healthcare whether as patients or in the workforce. And an important component of a sports club’s success is the health and wellness of its athletes. In fact, across all sports 15-30% of payroll costs are lost due to injury. Sensor technologies are being used to monitor an athlete’s vital signs, which are monitored in real-time by their trainers to take preventive measures before an athlete is seriously hurt.
My experience in Latin America was both informative and uplifting, and I look forward to helping our customers achieve their goals and overcome challenges through technology. I encourage you to join the conversation with SAP about healthcare, youth, and sports: #SAPSpotlight