From addressing the rising disease burden to supporting an increased level of patient engagement, digital solutions have become indispensable to healthcare companies. In Latin America, however, the digital transformation of healthcare companies is still incipient, lagging both the U.S. and the Asia Pacific (APAC) regions. 

The DEX survey

L.E.K. Consulting conducted a DEX (Digital Excellence Framework) survey in the second half of 2022, which included respondents from 200 companies in 19 countries across LatAm, the U.S., APAC, and Europe, in four healthcare subsectors: healthcare services, healthcare insurance, medical technology (“medtech”), and pharmaceuticals.

The DEX survey was designed to assess the digital maturity of participating companies across nine categories: digital vision and strategy; leadership, organization and governance plus new ways of working; digital operations along with digital infrastructure and related enablers; customer experience and digital services as well as digital go-to-market and data insights; and finally, business models and markets along with ecosystem and partnerships. The DEX framework allows for the assessment of a company’s digital maturity across five levels: traditionalist, novice, intermediate, advanced and champion.

The DEX survey found that the sector is still at the novice stage after evolving little between 2019 and 2022. From a subsector perspective, medtech remains at the lowest stage of maturity whereas insurance is at the higher end. And from a geographic perspective, the transition of LatAm’s healthcare companies to digital remains in the initial stages — which, given the region’s low digital competitiveness rankings, should be expected. 

Insurers and service providers

While still lacking in strategy and governance, LatAm’s insurers and service providers are beginning to create more innovative offerings. Areas of progress include telehealth, electronic health records (EHRs), mobile health (mHealth), and medical imaging and diagnostics. Major disruptive opportunities can be found in “refocusing” areas such as customer service and go-to-market, though service providers still need to get the foundations right. 

Elsewhere, challenges remain when it comes to regulatory frameworks; infrastructure and connectivity; interoperability; and digital literacy. For example, hospitals in Brazil have made great advances in critical systems but still fail to properly integrate data and remain in the early stages of data processing. 

But there are numerous groups pioneering more disruptive approaches, improving both their operations and delivery of care in the process. One example is Hospital Sírio-Libanês. After its innovation department incubated Sofya, a startup that improves the format of clinical documentation using a voice-to-text and artificial intelligence platform, the amount of time it takes to enter medical data was reduced by up to 40%.

Medtech and pharma

Although COVID-related restrictions forced pharma and medtech companies in LatAm to evolve their models, their level of digital maturity is still relatively low, across all dimensions. 

Marketing and commercial tools, e-commerce platforms, and basic infrastructure are some of the areas where progress in this subsector has been made, whereas challenges remain when it comes to articulating clear strategy, with data architecture and integration, and with regards to interoperable and connected infrastructure across the value chain, including connections with key partners such as distributors. And despite advancements in recent years, both pharma and medtech companies face barriers to attaining digital proficiency.

One example is pharma company Eurofarma's corporate venture capital program, which invests in companies and startups that offer technology solutions aimed at improving various areas of the healthcare industry, such as operational efficiency and commercial viability. Back in 2019, it launched Neuron Venture, a fund with R$45 million to support the development of innovative healthcare solutions that has invested in startups such as Ocean Drop, The Men’s, and Just for You.  

To learn more about the digital transformation of LatAm’s healthcare industry, please be sure to download our analysis.  

Riding the Digital Health Wave: The L.E.K. Digital Excellence Framework
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Are healthcare companies prepared to ride the digital wave of innovation? See what industry executives say about achieving success in the digital arena.

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