The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the contrasts in our health system. Not only the strengths it has, but also its weaknesses. Now it is time to learn from this experience and take advantage of the opportunity presented to us by this crisis. It is an opportunity to make healthcare one of the economic sectors that drives the necessary transformation of our production system, at the same time responding to the ever-increasing needs of a more and more complex society.
There is no doubt that some of the weaknesses had to do with mismanagement by the government, which meant that Spain was at the top of the list in terms of affected and deceased persons per inhabitant, and also registered record figures in terms of infected health staff, with serious consequences and that should not be overlooked. We lacked a centralized operations center to lead the response effectively, with a clear and orderly governance and organizational structure through a consistent data model.
There is also no doubt that the speed and determination of the response, late in the face of the first warnings, was diminished by structural problems and chronic under-financing of the healthcare system, thus impeding the investment of resources for strategic purposes and reducing our capacities in an emergency situation.
But what has become manifest in this crisis is that privately run health organizations and hospitals have stood out as essential partners of the public, with the universal healthcare system assuming a large part of the effort. Private companies not directly related to healthcare also joined the effort from the outset, contributing with perseverance and resources to obtain materials quickly, such examples being the textile sector or companies in the automotive sector.
With the recent document - “Healthcare, a strategic sector for the future productive model” (La Sanidad, sector estratéigico para el future modelo productivo) - healthcare has become a more strategic sector due to the pandemic, the Círculo de Empresarios* proposes three kinds of initiatives in the current circumstances: respond to the current situation, promote improvements to take advantage of the opportunity for change that a crisis always offers, and envision the future. While the first two focus on applying what has been learned to improve the structural response and correct some of the chronic problems of our system, the third sphere would be the first step towards strengthening the healthcare system as a strategic sector of our country.
AXIS OF CHANGE
The axes of the proposed changes are based on three fundamental elements: digitization, innovation and public-private investment. Regarding the first of these, the implementation of existing tools or access to new technologies throughout the National Health System will be key to taking a defining step towards improving the quality of care, in particular the personalization of treatments, dispensing of drugs and participation of chronic patients. Moreover, in terms of healthcare management there should also be optimization of resources, with a comprehensive view of the system and agile management of agendas.
Digitization will also be the gateway to innovation in research by facilitating large-scale data collection and its use with advanced analytical tools. Regarding innovation, it plays a leading role in Spain's differential value proposition as a country. Big data, AI and telemedicine are already present in our lives and will carry even greater weight in the future. We already have management models to research the development of new technologies and therapies, in other words, the right environment. But a firm commitment is needed both for investment and for implementing innovation.
Finally, there is public-private investment. In order to respond to the most pressing needs of the system, it is necessary to increase the budget allocated and to encourage the participation of private capital. An economically healthy system enables working dynamics beyond essential operations, which would favor a cultural change where the development and adoption of innovation would make Spanish healthcare attractive to both national and international investment.
Spain can become a hub for healthcare services worldwide, boosted by the excellent quality of care, cutting-edge research, and attracting patients and foreign talent. We have current examples of excellence that are proof of its feasibility. With clear initiatives and the right incentives, a new source of wealth could be promoted for our country.
The current crisis has given rise to the perfect scenario for placing an unambiguous bet on this sector, highlighting the great value that healthcare can provide to the economy through the consolidation and improvement of the quality and assistance provided.
Managing Partner, Ellis & Partners
*This article refers to a document published by the Circulo de Empresarios (a group of business leaders and top managers) on healthcare and in relation to COVID.