Most of us already have health-related apps on our phones telling us how many steps taken, calories burnt or hours slept. Monitoring our own health and vital signs has become part of our everyday life. According to Americas Market Intelligence, the wearable sensors market in Latin America is expected to grow by 40% a year between now and 2020. The missing link, however, is integrating all of this data into a smart system, one in which we could weigh ourselves and have the data automatically sent to our doctor or nutritionist; or where a specialist would receive real-time data on our sleep patterns and quality.

Technology penetration and data management in Latin America has advanced at lightning-fast speeds and offer incredible opportunities for the transformation of the healthcare industry. As noted by Global Health Intelligence, the region has been behind other nations in adopting some of the components of this data revolution but it has made up major ground in recent years. Countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Chile and others now have national electronic medical record (EMR) systems, for example. Chile boasts a rate of 73% adoption of EMRs in its hospitals, while Uruguayan hospitals have a 63% adoption rate and more than half of Colombian hospitals (51%) have also added this high-tech records-keeping system.

In this constantly changing environment, it is essential to accompany healthcare professionals through their technology transformation to ensuring they unlock its full potential. We can do this through better understanding their goals and challenges and providing them with innovative solutions and business models that are adapted to these specific needs. At the same time, we must also focus on the general population, empowering them to play an active role in managing their health through connected care technologies.

In order to create a sustainable healthcare system for future generations in Latin America, we need to provide more personalized, industrialized and inclusive healthcare.

The data revolution is making it possible for people to lead healthier lives through the use of connected devices. Thanks to innovations such as the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT), consumers can now control their own health through a highly customized approach but we need to teach them how to maximize this revolution’s full potential. For example, by sharing their data and progress with healthcare providers, a potential health issue can be identified and addressed before it becomes worse or an existing condition can be monitored and treated from the comfort of the patient’s own home.

The power of digital technology, such as Big Data and artificial intelligence, is enabling the creation of more integrated health systems through industrialized care models. By taking advantage of these technologies, healthcare providers can be more efficient and increase productivity, delivering better outcomes and reducing operational costs. One great example of industrialized care is Abu Dhabi’s department of health which carried out clinical exams for its entire population and with the results developed a healthcare plan tailored to the country’s specific needs, based on real issues (such as diabetes and high cholesterol) rather than theoretical problems.

We are facing a growing challenge to provide more inclusive care and give more people access to healthcare. To reach this goal we need to focus on integrated solutions: unique combinations of systems, software and services developed in response to consumer insights and adapted to solve specific needs, all with the goal of improving lives in Latin America. Tasy, is a very interesting health informatics case developed by Philips in Brazil. As one of the leading solutions to manage EMR and other clinical models, it supports the digitization of workflows, updates and shares health records within the walls of the hospital and provides real-time monitoring and clinical decision support to optimize the coordination of care. We believe that, in the near future, Tasy will allow health professionals to share data beyond hospital networks with other health professionals and with patients, providing a more efficient way to improve the population’s health whilst adhering to proper cybersecurity protocols.

The future is now

The 2017 Future Health Index, a study commissioned by Philips, surveyed more than 33,000 people across 19 countries to find out how well positioned they are to satisfy global healthcare needs in the long-term through the adoption and integration of connected health technologies. The results offer relevant insights on adoption, use and knowledge of these technologies.

Both healthcare professionals and the general population in Brazil agree that connected technology is important for a variety of facets of healthcare, including integration. Only about one in five (21%) of the general population believes they are somewhat or extremely knowledgeable about connected care technologies. But the study suggests healthcare professionals are more confident that their patients know how to use these technologies. This brings great insights towards unifying health systems processes and data through technology to provide affordable and intelligent treatment for health population management.

The outlook for 2018

Connected health technologies are essential to the future of health systems around the world. We see an enormous opportunity to increase their adoption and use in Latin America by not only health systems and medical professionals but also consumers. The answer will be to provide better education and increase investment through customized business models and solutions that achieve efficiency, value and improve health outcomes. We must harness the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to create the sustainable and inclusive future we want to live in.