Welcome to Latin America. Land of carnival and beautiful football. A place of sunshine, samba, salsa and extraordinary people. A mystical place for most Europeans but aside from ‘the good life’ it offer the potential of a very interesting healthcare opportunity. Latin America’s combined potential encompassing giants like Brazil and Mexico with smaller innovation leaders like Chile is really quite exciting as a new middle class emerges and new models for healthcare evolve.
My first trip was to Rio in 2011. A great introduction to the region as we launched SmartCamp. We were in excellent company. Our partner SVB were exploring options to open an office. Great VCs including Jim Breyer from Accel joined us to launch the program and we were super excited by the ambitious startups we meet including Opara, IDXP and Prime Saude. We even managed to convince Gustavo and Alex to visit us in Dublin (in winter). We had started to set in place some of the connections which would later translate into plans to develop our activities there.
As is most emerging locations (with exception of India and China) the venture capital industry is still nascent. Fundraising is a challenging process that needs to be perfected and there are just not enough funds (investments in the range of $100,000 to $3 million are often termed the “missing middle”). However the opportunities in general and in healthcare specifically were very interesting. Take Brazil as one example. Total healthcare spending well below first world. Small part of population with health plan 25% of Brazilian population in 2000 vs. 83 % of population in USA (2009). Combine this with new programs to support entrepreneurs and an emerging middle class and you get the picture.
The World Bank recently published the following covering Universal Healthcare on the rise in Latin America
“People living longer, children celebrating more birthdays and fewer families falling into poverty due to illness, are just a few of the outstanding results from countries increasingly adopting universal healthcare coverage in recent years. And it would seem that Latin America and the Caribbean is leading the charge. Nine countries have been featured in a new set of 22 case studies analyzing significant gains made in healthcare access over the past decade”
So in late 2013 when Vitor Asseituno – EmpreenderSaúde asked me to attend the first Health2.0 Latin America in December it wasn’t a very hard decision to say yes. We had been following from a far and we excited to see how the first regional Health2.0 event would take shape. In short it was fantastic. I had Health2.0 Europe in London the previous week and it was amazing to see how Vitor and the team has surpassed the London event with a larger crowd, key influencers including Minster of Health Brazil and international travellers including Carlos Rodarte (Patients Like Me), Diego Miralles(Jansen Healthcare Innovation), Matthew Douglass (Practice Fusion), Unity Stokes (Startup Health) and many more.
During the visit also had the opportunity to meet the founders of Dr Consulta . They are working on the problem of 150 million brazilians who don’t have access to healthcare because they are uninsured and have to rely on the public system for assistance. It can take up to 12 months to see a doctor in the public system and the quality of service is considered very bad by 60% of the population, according to a study made by IBOPE, a poll institute. In addition only 45% of health facilities in the country are public, and are unable to meet 80% of demand The solution is a clinic inside the largest favela of sao paulo, that offers medical appointments with top doctors in the country for the lowest cost in the city, laboratory and imaging exams with the best equipment and partners in the sector globally, at very convenient locations to the patients close to their homes, and with maximum waiting time of 7 days to see a doctor.
Providing world-class care while dramatically reducing costs is impressive and something Europe and US need to learn how to do. This is just one example of why we are so excited to host theHealthXL Award on the 20th March in partnership with Vitor Asseituno – EmpreenderSaúde and invite the winner to Dublin for Global Gathering 2014.