The Pandemic Has Opened the Doors to New Learning Opportunities
Boston Scientific Latin America
What impact did the pandemic have on the health sector?
The pandemic has heavily impacted all industries, and has generated enormous structural changes and much mobility, particularly in our sector, where primary care has demonstrated a clear need for more solid systems to promote and protect the health of all patients.
Personally, I think the main issue we have in Latin America is access, both to medical devices and to health in general. It’s a major problem that has existed for a long time, before the pandemic even began. For the last two or three years, we haven’t focused on access, and COVID-19 has just made it clear that the procedures we have in Latin America are not comparable to the level and quality of those in the rest of the world.
This information is supported by concrete data: the World Bank’s 2021 reports show that 14.5% of Latin America’s population has to allocate 10% of the family budget to health.
We are living through a time of constant changes, and COVID-19 sped up those changes. What did the industry learn during the pandemic?
I think the biggest lesson we learned, as an industry and as humans, was the capacity for people to work together. For example, in our sector, we have released the plans so that everyone has the possibility of building a mechanical respirator in their home; vaccines have been shipped around the world; telemedicine came to be part of daily life; we have all worked together to get ahead, and we had never had the opportunity to do that before.
It may sound strong, but for the first time the patient was center stage, regardless of their condition—rich or poor, black or white. In spite of the differences, there was something that we could all agree on, which is that the “focus is on the patient.”
Those of us in decision-making positions have a duty to think about what the patient really needs. This is why we have to cultivate a broader approach and stop naval gazing.
Companies within the health industry look out for themselves instead of seeking the common good. When a hospital wants to buy a medical device, what really matters is the price and mix of products that may be offered to them, as the hospitals’ objective is to negotiate a patient-care package that will be the most cost-effective. The interest of healthcare businesses is based on protecting their own budgets and obtaining the greatest possible cost-effectiveness.
Yet the pandemic got many people joining together to save others, and I think we, as an institution, should take that example to completely rethink our structure and find a way to bring as many patients into the system as possible, without being so concerned with profit margins.
We have overcome the contagion outbreak. What are the next steps for the sector?
Today I think the answer to the problems we have in the sector lies in the diversity of groups. We are going to find the best results in difference. It means no longer looking within and stepping outside our structures to learn new ways of working, with digital or even hybrid methods.
The pandemic has taught us a lot, and we have a duty to evolve. The term “out of office,” meaning the treatment of patients outside hospitals, is something that was implemented primarily when COVID-19 began, but it opened up new doors for the future of the healthcare sector, generating greater fluidity of patients and, therefore, greater access and better care for patients.
In my experience, hospitals whose management has a modern, digital mentality have achieved better results than traditional hospitals, and that’s why I say that the key to change lies with those of us who can make the decisions. We need to be surrounded by people who can get on board with us and implement these changes.
Boston Scientific is one of the industry’s most senior multinationals, developing, making, and selling medical devices worldwide. One third of its operations are in Latin America, and it is among the top investors in R&D.