Ana Paula Corral Dórame
The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean face the growing challenge of providing quality and efficient health services. Because of the pandemic, some projects have been activated to accelerate digitalization in the region, allowing pressure on healthcare systems to be reduced.
The combination of medical informatics, public health and business is called eHealth, referring to health services and information provided or enhanced through the Internet and related technologies. In other words, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it is the term added to improving health care locally, regionally, and globally through the use of information and communication technology. Having defined the term, the main purpose of this article is to present existing opportunities within the sector in the Latin American continent.
Currently, investment in applications that enable the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of patients is perceiving high growth because of the health crisis. Market Data Forecast affirms the Latin American eHealth market size is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 13.2% from 2020 to 2025. This market was worth 1,255 million USD in 2020 and is predicted to be worth 2,347 million USD by 2025. Furthermore, the International Data Corporation estimates a growth of 5.6% for 2021 meant for technology investments in the health sector.
The increase of smartphone usage among the countries of Latin American countries is significantly boosting market growth. The population using smartphones in Latin American countries is very high, further reflecting on the usage of eHealth solutions for various health disorders. The above is expected to be a significant growth factor for the market during the same forecast period.
The growing adoption and awareness of benefits associated with eHealth is another decisive factor supporting market growth in the region. An aging population and a growing number of patients are favorable factors for the market’s development. In addition, remote monitoring services for patients and the availability of telemedicine, telehealth, and eHealth services are fueling the market share.
However, digital health training and research programs in the region tend to be fragmented and have room for improvement. Pierce, Schroeder and Suchecki suggest a health workforce trained in digital health is essential to well-functioning telehealth initiatives aimed at strengthening health systems and ensuring adequate service delivery.
There are several success stories of eHealth solutions in Latin America and the Caribbean. A success story in Brazil is “Cuidando Digital”, a telemedicine platform established by one of the largest medical groups in the country, Grupo Fleury. This platform connects doctors and patients online and was available to the medical community for free during the pandemic. Another example is Costa Rica’s implementation of the “Expediente Digital Único en Salud” system, which began in 2012. In 2018, the implementation expanded to all levels of care provided by the Costa Rica Social Security Board. Similarly, a direct-to-consumer telemedicine solution was launched for Argentina and neighboring nations in 2019, named “TeleMeditar”, allowing for an innovative video-call medical consultation system, complementing traditional medical consultation with a fast option.
Despite the challenges, COVID-19 has led to disruptions in the delivery of essential health services around the world. At the same time, the health and social distancing measures imposed by the pandemic have forced a change in direction regarding healthcare delivery solutions to ensure continuity of care. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development believes digital technologies offer unique opportunities to strengthen health systems, with the health crisis offering an opportunity to accelerate the implementation of digital health solutions, to better understand the conditions that favored them, and the mechanisms that will favor their sustainability in the long term.