Reimagining Chile’s healthcare system: Harnessing the power of strategic analytics and Big Data to keep patients healthier for less money – Rafael Epstein, Marcelo Larraguibel, Lee Ullman

Lee Ullmann, Director of the MIT Sloan Latin America Office

Lee Ullmann, Director of the MIT Sloan Latin America Office

From El Mercurio

Economic growth, urbanization, and rising affluence are having a profound impact on the health of Latin Americans. Very little of it is positive, especially in Chile.

While life expectancy has increased faster in Chile than in most OECD countries and income per person has quadrupled over the last quarter-century, great disparities continue to exist between the country’s public and private healthcare systems. Healthcare costs are skyrocketing and many of the country’s public hospitals—especially those in rural areas—face a shortage of general practitioners and family physicians.

The modern Chilean diet—comprised largely of ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks—is taking a toll. One third of Chilean children are overweight or obese; one quarter of Chilean adults are in those categories. Chronic diseases, like diabetes, are increasingly prevalent. Stress-related disorders and mental illnesses are also on the rise, as are rates of alcoholism, tobacco use, and certain types of cancer. Over the last decade suicide has been one of the top 10 causes of death in Chilean men.

Today’s statistics are bleak, but we have hope for the tomorrow. Technological innovations and discoveries, powered by Big Data, hold enormous opportunities for Chile and Latin America overall. To explore this further, we are hosting a conference next month in Santiago—“Strategic Analytics: Changing the Future of Healthcare”—that aims to highlight the many ways in which data and analytics promise to transform the provision of healthcare. The conference is expected to draw hundreds of researchers and leaders from academia, health care, government, and industry.

Our agenda is ambitious. By combining MIT’s expertise in analyzing massive amounts of data and optimizing complex systems with Universidad de Chile’s path-breaking medical research and Virtus Partners’ strategic and operational insights, we aim to unravel the complicated underlying problems that plague the healthcare system.

Of course many countries—including the US—face healthcare challenges. Our hope is that this conference inspires engineers, medical professionals, economists, and technologists from all over the world to see the benefits of working together to improve human health. Our goal is simple: to keep patients healthier for less money.

Progress is afoot. At MIT, researchers have devised algorithms that boost treatment for certain diseases, including diabetes, using a combination of machine learning and electronic medical records. At a time when 1.7 million Chileans, or about 12.3% of the population, have diabetes, this research has important implications.

The dawn of telemedicine—which enables doctors to monitor patients from afar—also holds promise, particularly for patients who live in remote areas. (Chile is a long and skinny country, and about 10% of the population lives in rural areas.) Researchers at the Universidad de Chile’s Medical Informatics and Telemedicine Center are using sensors and other devices to monitor patients’ blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and blood sugar levels from great distances. Technologists at the MIT Media Lab are finding new ways to apply emotion technology and wearable devices to help sufferers with autism, anxiety, and epilepsy manage their symptoms.

Researchers are also finding new ways to contain medical costs. Using Big Data to measure returns of healthcare spending, economists are able to help hospitals uncover best practices and align incentives to improve the quality of the care they provide. This has special relevance to Chile. The country’s Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASA) struggles with overwhelming management challenges and increasing costs. Meanwhile, access to high-quality technology and healthcare services is still limited to the wealthy.

The promise of Big Data is immense, but so, too, are its perils. Many questions remain: How do we ensure that patient data stays both confidential and secure? How do we safeguard against Big Data applications creating even more disparities between the rich and poor, and instead use it to build a more equitable healthcare system for all? And how should governments cope with managing the high costs of aging populations?

These are big challenges and nothing will be solved overnight. Our hope is that the conference will point to new ideas and solutions that improve patient health for generations to come.

Read the original blog post at El Mercurio.

Lee Ullmann is the Director of the MIT Sloan Latin America Office.

Rafael Epstein is the Provost of Universidad de Chile.

Marcelo Larraguibel is the Founder of Virtus Partners, the management consultancy, and an Advisory Council Member of the MIT Sloan Latin America Office (MSLAO).

Using big data to manage medical expectations — Cynthia Rudin

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Cynthia Rudin

From The Health Care Blog 

For all the advances in both medicine and technology, patients still face a bewildering array of advice and information when trying to weigh the possible consequences of certain medical treatments. But a hands-on, data-driven tool I have developed with some colleagues can now help patients obtain personalized predictions for their recovery from surgery. This tool can help patients better manage their expectations about their speed of recovery and long-term effects of the procedure.

People need to be able to fully understand the possible effects of a medical procedure in a realistic and clear way. Seeking to develop a model for recovery curves, we developed a Bayesian modeling approach to recovery curve prediction in order to forecast sexual function levels after prostatectomy, based on the experiences of 300 UCLA clinic patients both before radical prostatectomy surgery and during the four years immediately following surgery. The resulting interactive tool is designed to be used before the patient has a prostatectomy in order to help the patient manage expectations. A central predicted recovery curve shows the patient’s average sexual function over time after the surgery. The tool also displays a range of lighter-colored curves illustrating the broader range of possible outcomes.

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Why we can’t fix our healthcare system — Ayesha Khalid

From TEDx

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Ayesha Khalid, surgeon at Harvard Medical School and recent MBA from the MIT Sloan Fellows Program, is at the intersection of disruptive innovation in healthcare and the digital health experience. Ayesha previously pioneered groundbreaking research in sinus disease including muco-ciliary clearance and outcomes following surgery. She is now a passionate believer that disruptive innovation in healthcare requires collaboration, not competition. Using a systems thinking approach, Ayesha wants us to suspend our belief that adding more process to our healthcare system will add back “health” and “care” to a broken system. Instead, this compelling talk provides an imaginative way to approach the redesign of our health care system to one that promotes “health” and works “systematically” for the patient.

A sinus surgeon at Harvard Medical School and recent MBA graduate from MIT, Ayesha Khalid is a healthcare innovation enthusiast involved with entrepreneurial ventures at the intersection of healthcare innovation and digital technologies. She has pioneered groundbreaking research techniques in inflammation and sinus disease and is working to create different funding paradigms to accelerate clinical research.

For more information, see this op-ed about Dr. Khalid’s approach to reshaping the healthcare system in Huffington Post UK.

Ayesha Khalid is a surgeon at Harvard Medical School and recent MBA graduate from the MIT Sloan Fellows Program.

Understanding the implications of consumer empowerment in health care — Renée Richardson Gosline

MIT Sloan Prof. Renée Richardson Gosline

From Huffington Post

The days of the passive patient and omnipotent Marcus Welby-like physician are long gone. Since the 1990s, consumer empowerment in health care has been increasing, most notably with the advent of direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription medicines. Then, the rise of digital media allowed consumers to search symptoms and create communities around common disease experiences. More recently, the ability to shop for health insurance through health care exchanges and obtain treatment at drug store clinics has led to a new age of consumer empowerment.

We’ve gone from a B-to-B model to a B-to-C model in health care. This shift in power to consumers has many implications when it comes to how we make decisions about our health care. Here are six ways that a behavioral lens can help us understand the implications of empowering consumers in health care:

1. Heuristics

Heuristics are very important. These mental shortcuts or “rules of thumb” allow us to make decisions efficiently. However, these judgments are subject to non-rational (or biased) influences in the marketplace. For example, a retail promotion like a drug store coupon can affect the price on which patients “anchor” their judgments about the appropriate cost of health care. And a retail clinic can affect the appeal of non-healthy alternatives with their location, like in the candy aisle. While this may not have been a big deal before, it is an important consideration in a B2C retail environment.

Read the full post at The Huffington Post.

Renée Richardson Gosline is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Management Science group at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. She teaches the MBA course in Branding.

Biggest obstacles to decent health care in the developing world are managerial — Anjali Sastry

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Anjali Sastry

From the Huffington Post

Picture yourself going to the doctor. You arrive by car, park nearby, and when you enter a receptionist greets you and checks your information on a computer. You’re led into a comfortable, well-lit office; the cabinets are fully stocked. Your records are on hand. The nurses and doctors are well educated and knowledgeable, their equipment at the ready. If they can’t help you, they refer you to someone who can.

Now try to picture the same scene in sub-Saharan Africa. If you’re wealthy, your experience may be similar. But if you’re not, it’s altogether different. The roads are unpaved and riddled with potholes; it might take all day to get to the clinic by public transport. The queue to see the doctor is long–an eight-hour wait is not unusual–and there’s nowhere to sit. You might have to bribe someone to be seen. The electricity is unreliable; the clinic’s supplies are running low. Your medical records are incomplete, perhaps even non-existent. The doctors and nurses, while trained and dedicated, are not up-to-date on current treatments, and lack access to the tools they need.

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