November 03, 2015

The Innovation Landscape in Latin America

Our research team is putting the finishing touches on a new landscaping study focused on emerging healthcare innovations in Latin America with a special focus on Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.

In the meantime, I had the chance last month to present on trends we are seeing in in the region and broader implications for healthcare in Brazil at “Ecossistema de Saúde de Alto Impacto Social no Brasil” – an event co-sponsored by Artemisia, ANDE and Instituto Sabin, and the Linked Foundation.

 Talking to a diverse group of academics, investors and entrepreneurs, I offered up four main takeaways from our research:

  • First, while Latin America as a region holds a strong belief that healthcare is a human right, that sentiment has not protected the region from health disparities between populations.  Public sector facilities struggle to meet the needs of all communities. As people turn to the private sector, out of pocket spending is on the rise and puts urgent services out of reach for lower income people.
  • Next, private sector innovation is on the rise in Latin America. While OECD research says that innovation growth in Latin America is slower than many other regions, our research finds, however, that it is on the rise. Many innovators in our network are using innovative approaches to expand access to quality, affordable care to lower income populations. For example, dr. Consulta, a for-profit business in Brazil integrates primary and secondary health services into one location, provides patients with access to services 25 times faster than public options, and with prices that are 70% to 90% lower than the private market.
  • Many countries in Latin America are facing a common emerging economy dilemma – while maternal and child health metrics are still poor and infectious disease remains a challenge, this population is also experiencing a rise in chronic disease that challenges the entirety of health systems.  Our research looks at innovators in several countries working to prevent, diagnose and treat chronic disease.
  • Finally, diversity of capital is essential for nurturing innovation in Latin America.  For example, a for-profit company treating diabetes may not have the resources to do community interventions to prevent or diagnose disease and investors would not be interested in funding these activities.  Foundations however are less keen on providing funds for for-profit companies.  Investors and funders need to move beyond a black and white view of how they deploy resources and think synergistically in how to meet multiple health population goals.

 We soon will be providing full details from our research – which includes desk research, in-depth interviews, and site visits with over 100 contacts in 3 countries.  In the meantime, feel free to reach to me with any questions at logan.couce@duke.edu