Collaboration: an indispensable component of making personalised healthcare a reality in Latin America

In Latin America, we increasingly see more initiatives designed to provide solutions to the challenges our health systems face. However, these initiatives are often designed in isolation. We can compare them to building roads that, though modern and rapid, reach a dead end without connecting to other paths, rendering them, to some degree, inactive. For example, although our region has advanced in the creation of technologies for telemedicine, the lack of direct regulation has hindered its implementation and interoperability.ย 

In order to strengthen different strategies, implement lessons learned, and move towards a future of personalised healthcare for all, the integration and coordination of different actors across the Latin American health community is essential. A better understanding of the current state of our health systems is an important component when creating a shared knowledge base that facilitates both dialogue and collaboration between different sectors and informs the development of joint solutions. FutureProofing Healthcareโ€™s Personalised Healthcare Index, for example, is a tool that helps us take the first step, bringing together data from 10 countries in our region to allow us to learn from each other and find synergies to build and progress towards optimised and sustainable health systems. 

Collaboration at all levels: between systems, sectors, and countries 

One of the priorities to reach the adoption of personalised healthcare, or data-based healthcare, is advancing towards interoperable health systems. This means having the capacity to access clinical data in real time to ensure effective patient care at any point in their journey through the system while improving the quality and continuity of their care. Tools like electronic health records (EHRs) are already being used to connect, share and increase access to clinical data, which facilitates collaboration between doctors with different medical specialties to provide coordinated medical care. 

One example from which Latin American countries can learn from is the Uruguayan initiative promoted by the Agency for Electronic Government and the Information and Knowledge Society (AGESIC, its Spanish acronym), which established the National Electronic Medical Record in 2016. The platform now contains more than 60 million medical documents, enabling an exchange of information between healthcare personnel that has proved critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mexico has also successfully adopted electronic health records: in the index, the country received the maximum score in the use of EHRs (100) and a high score on gathering and access to comprehensive data on outcomes (80). These types of complementary actions in both countries mean that doctors can report and adapt their interventions with specific evidence from each patient to achieve better outcomes.   

On the other hand, the pandemic also evidenced the need for public-private alliances to compensate for public sector limitations and expand the scope of innovations, thus providing greater benefits to patients. In the context of personalised healthcare, governments play an important role in encouraging and facilitating the participation of the private sector. Together, they can jointly close gaps in access to health services, creating regulatory frameworks that foster the incorporation of innovative solutions. Both Peru and Chile, for example, passed a National Cancer Law requiring that the Ministry of Health in each country to draft a National Cancer Plan to regulate public actions with regard to cancer and related public policies. The new law creates an environment in which the government, the private sector and the pharmaceutical industry work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer in the country, expanding innovations so they reach all patients, regardless of their income.

Finally, in order to make personalised healthcare in Latin American a reality, countries must support one another. The Personalised Healthcare Index reveals the areas in which each country excels and which other countries can learn from to advance towards resilient health systems. With this data in mind, we have the opportunity to learn about innovative solutions that have worked and evaluate how to scale them to other countries. In Chile, for example, telemedicine was already in use before the pandemic, mainly in the public sector, to facilitate consultations with specialists in distant provinces. The telemedicine infrastructure and planning proved particularly beneficial when the pandemic broke out given the explosive rise in the demand for teleconsultations and remote patient monitoring. The private healthcare sector also got on board and today 65% of over 328 centres providing complex care have integrated telemedicine to their care model. The lessons of this and other similar cases can help contribute to solutions that support health systems and prepare them for the needs of the future.  

Although we may not have explicitly set out to do so, we realise that we have taken concrete steps towards personalised healthcare, which is now closer than ever. Imagine all we could accomplish if, starting right now, there was an explicit political will to advance on this new paradigm! Just a few years ago, personalised healthcare seemed like something impossible in our region, something reserved for more developed countries. However, I am sure that if we continue our collaboration and joint efforts, we will strengthen the lessons learned and make personalised healthcare a reality for all Latin Americans. 

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