We all recognize the many challenges in healthcare on a global scale – countries and communities face ageing populations and growing numbers of chronic and lifestyle-related diseases, while healthcare systems struggle to increase access and quality of care in an environment of spiralling costs.

In Latin American countries, with a population of around 626 million people, the elderly population is expected to triple by 2050. As a result, causes of death are moving away from communicable diseases and accidents to non-communicable and chronic diseases.

In a 2015 report, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommended Latin American countries increase the efficiency of their health systems and enable access to quality healthcare to face these upcoming challenges.

Healthcare as we know it is rapidly evolving, as people increasingly seek to be active participants in their personal health and as the needs of consumers and clinicians connect in new ways across the health continuum – from healthy living and prevention to diagnosis, treatment and home care.

Access to healthcare and the ability to lead a healthy life are fundamentally important for both developed and developing countries, and it is well established that good health and economic growth go hand in hand. Effective and efficient universal healthcare benefits economies, underpins social cohesion and allows people to lead happier and more productive lives. Together with education, it remains one of the key drivers of world economic growth.

Although some markets in Latin America have made significant improvements in the delivery of healthcare in the past decade, we believe the development of new ways to deliver effective and efficient healthcare requires a fundamental shift in mindset. Incremental improvement alone is not sufficient anymore.

At Philips, we are convinced we can achieve this by building partnerships, exploring new business models, and increasing our focus on digital, connected care solutions that will reduce costs and eliminate waste for health services processes.

Co-creating through partnerships

Building partnerships is an essential part of our strategy – co-creating solutions to bring together the different building blocks of continuous and connected care. The nature of healthcare is so diverse and complex, and the pace of digital change so rapid, that it is not possible to innovate in isolation.

Long-term strategic partnerships, not just between technology providers and clinical partners, but also among data and ecosystem specialists, help us build holistic views of the patient and their clinical needs – as well as the workflow challenges that need to be taken into account.

By aligning objectives and incentives among stakeholders and sharing risks in the innovation process, we can deliver the most meaningful results for doctors, patients and the communities we serve.

An example: since 2015, Philips has been involved in the first public-private partnership in Brazil providing imaging and diagnostic services in the state of Bahia, which faced a shortage of high-quality and complex imaging equipment and tests. The partnership reaches 11 hospitals and will run for more than 10 years with a total investment of $300 million. In the past year, 183,000 exams have been completed across the public state network at a lower cost than those offered by the public health system.

Exploring disruptive business models

We might also investigate more imaginative ways of financing care projects. How can technology companies co-create solutions with care providers? What about systems that are funded on the basis of outcome, rather than the amount of people that are treated or access the project – value-based instead of outcome-based care?

By engaging in multi-year co-operation to drive improvements in terms of quality, efficiency and clinical and patient outcomes, we are embracing the kind of innovative performance-based business model needed for future healthcare provision.

Creating digitally-connected care

Technology penetration in Latin America has progressed at breakneck speed. Internet and smartphone usage rates are now on par with North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Already home to more than 155 million smartphone users in 2015, the region is expected to maintain growth rates of more than 20% per year in the near future. By 2019, it is estimated that 42% of the population will possess a smartphone device, and the majority will have internet access. (January 2016, Global Health Intelligence report)

Digitization offers incredible opportunities for healthcare transformation and for health systems in Latin America to leapfrog ahead. Digital technologies will be a key enabler for achieving the necessary touch points and care coordination across the health continuum.

Increasingly, rich data sets will unlock insights that provide a deeper understanding of both individual patients’ and a population’s health – this really puts the patient at the centre of care.

The first Future Health Index survey in 2016 suggested emerging markets lead in adopting connected technologies. In Brazil, for example, the majority of patients (79%) and healthcare professionals (84%) believe that connected care technology is important for improving the overall health of the population.

An example: in Brazil, we created Philips Tasy, an IT solution that provides hospital administrators with integrated access to information that can help increase the efficiency of healthcare services – more than 40,000 doctors (10% of the Brazilian medical population) are using Tasy every day, affecting the lives of thousands of patients.

At Philips, we are achieving this vision of continuous and connected care by thinking beyond individual products. Today, we think in terms of integrated solutions – unique combinations of systems, smart devices, software and services that we adapt with our partners and customers to solve specific problems.

We believe the possibilities for integrated solutions to co-create the future of health across Latin America are huge – for personalized health programmes, public health management, therapy adherence, and the prevention of non-communicable diseases, as well as for the monitoring of pregnancy and newborns or respiratory diseases, among many other applications.

With our wide-ranging expertise in clinical and hospital settings, as well as deep consumer insights, we are teaming up with hospitals and health systems to act on their needs, provide integrated solutions and offer performance-based business models, as we did in Bahia.

By unlocking the power of digital technologies and big data it’s clear that connected, integrated health systems are starting to deliver new, innovative care models for the benefit of society, improving people’s lives in Latin America and elsewhere.