As the COVID-19 virus spreads across Latin America, economic hardship results in failing economies and civil upheaval. Nonetheless, digital transformation is emerging as the most potent remedy for overburdened and inefficient health systems.
FREMONT, CA: Latin American and Caribbean countries have been battling centralized healthcare access and inequities. For example, there are 1,8 practicing physicians per 1000 population (1,1 for nurses) in Colombia. Colombia and Mexico are near the bottom of the rankings in terms of healthcare availability and life expectancy. Additionally, the COVID-19 epidemic triggered a national crisis. This upheaval has caused significant national issues on a variety of fronts, jeopardizing the countries' social order and economic equilibrium.
To address these potential sociopolitical and economic problems and the extra barriers to health care access caused by healthcare worker shortages and COVID-19, Latin American countries have embarked on a historic rollout of digital health solutions across their national medical systems.
Electronic health records (EHR or EMR) and video consultation technology are the primary forms of digital health solutions being introduced. Latin American firms pioneering telemedicine-telecare have rapidly expanded their footprint in hospital-based clinical solutions.
This article will provide an update on the level of digital health development in the majority of Latin American economies' largest member countries.
Brazil: In Brazil, the COVID-19 epidemic sparked the creation of digital health measures. Among the important objectives is the establishment of formal governance bodies (such as the National Health Data Network – RedeNacional de Dados em Sade) in preparation for the implementation of a massive data-driven healthcare plan involving technology. Brazil's specialists see this disruption as a potential for considerable change in the way healthcare is structured and delivered (centralized vs. decentralized). Telemedicine, remote monitoring, remote diagnostics, and telerehabilitation will all be used to accomplish this.
Other Mercosur nations, such as Uruguay, continue to explore strategies and solutions for digital health development. Due to the nation's size, their condition is more manageable than in countries such as Brazil. However, as a result of economic growth and availability to highly skilled IT and software engineers, Uruguay is promoting itself as a source of digital health entrepreneurs, just like it did previously in other areas of technological advancement (Such as Fintech). Uruguay has also established government offices and projects focused on digital health, such as Salud.uy. These programs are also complemented by policies that assure the requisite quality of digital health solutions and that national health institutions adhere to the criteria (public and private).
Mexico: As stated at the outset of the essay, Mexico is one of the most inequitable countries in Latin America in terms of national healthcare coverage - the number of medical physicians per 1000 people is deficient, and life expectancy is around four years lower than in the United States.
This circumstance, combined with the COVID-19 emergency, has exacerbated the current limited healthcare system's accessibility issues. As a result, the requirement for digital solutions became apparent to maintain healthcare services while adhering to social distance laws.
While telemedicine is vital in Mexico, it continues to face severe obstacles, and this explains why it has not been expanded at the same rate and scale as Chile or Argentina. Mexico is currently confronted with a regulatory difficulty, with no agreement on when and how telemedicine would be adopted. Neither is the official route gaining traction with the medical community, which continues to reject the spread of remote solutions and the integration of digital technologies into routine clinical practice.
Despite these constraints, Mexico sees enormous potential for telemedicine and remote healthcare services. At the state level, organizations are being formed to accelerate the adoption and regulatory standardization of digital health.