Innovation Horizons | Brazil’s Planning for Public Health Improvement through Uses of Data, Technology, and Care Delivery Innovation
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Brazil’s Planning for Public Health Improvement through Uses of Data, Technology, and Care Delivery Innovation

Greg Downing and Brazilian Govt. Officials

Brazil’s Planning for Public Health Improvement through Uses of Data, Technology, and Care Delivery Innovation

This week I participated in a series of meetings on health care innovation at various agencies in the Government of Brazil and health care leaders at the invitation of the Brazil-US Business Council. Yesterday, I had the honor to speak at a public Congressional Hearing in Brasilia on Public Health and Technology sponsored by several National Congress Commissions. The goal of the hearing was to address opportunities for data and, information and communication technologies (ICT) to improve the quality of health care delivery systems. The sessions were led by Minister Gilberto Kassab, Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communication; and Minister Ricardo Barros, Ministry of Health. Public health officials, innovators, business leaders, patients, health care providers and more than a dozen members of Congress participated in the fast-paced and cutting-edge discussions.

Greg Downing presenting remarks in the opening scientific session at the Brazil “Technologies in Public Health” Seminar at the National Congress in Brasilia.

Brazil is a fascinating emerging economy with robust health science and technology infrastructure that provides the underpinnings for the health care of the future for its nearly 250 million citizens. Health care in Brazil is comprised of a large national public health program with private sector health care supported through large hospital and practice networks. Vast improvements in life expectancy, education, and economic development have been achieved in recent decades, yet immense poverty and vast public health challenges persist. Citizens of Brazil are highly connected using mobile ICTs, and the popular Facebook presence, WhatsApp, is a common source of public health information and consumer tools. Overall, health IT advances in electronic health records adoption has been advancing throughout the Brazil and there is intense interest in using technology to provide better data on health outcomes. Throughout the week, government leaders stressed the importance of developing more structured and granular data products to better inform their decisions on the financing of health care. They have immensely complicated challenges to address on patient access to medications, and medical devices, for example. DataSus, is the country’s Department of Health Information, and is highly engaged in developing new data streams and supporting government accountability and planning needs.

Yesterday’s hearing began with an impressive, detailed presentation by federal agencies data transparency efforts on many aspects of their health care purchasing. Amidst a tenuous political leadership situation in Brazil, there are many aspects of open government evident in health care financing and efforts to strengthen it further. Minister Barros remarked that “it is an imperative for this government that we emphasize in our budget and planning processes the needs for quantifying health outcomes for our population.”

In my presentation, I emphasized how the US health care system, through its incentivized EHR adoption program, has established a data infrastructure to enable the first steps to be taken in the transition to value-based payment programs. There was keen interest by the legislators and audience members in the presentation’s focus on the challenges, such as interoperability among data systems, and promises afforded by alternative payment systems and MACRA.

The scientific program also included exciting presentations on the clinical and analytical applications of cognitive science analytics for health care applications, including natural language tools, artificial intelligence platforms, and remote communication tools for real time diabetes management and support of population health. At the conclusion of the session, the parties were unified in their conviction to apply data and technology in new ways to guide their national public health programs.

Among the areas of interest for future discussions in Brazil include addressing provider education needs for quantitative approaches to health care, and engagement of the patients through uses of ICT. In addition, they will be embracing the business/entrepreneur community in new partnerships and collaborations with health care systems, and international collaboration on a variety of data sharing and health care delivery issues.

Overall, I was impressed with the depth of interest, knowledge, and expertise held by Brazilian agency officials and members of Congress on the topics of health data, patient-centered health care, and uses of technology to overcome barriers to care. This experience gave me an up-close look at the developing world’s data systems needs building on a case made in a recent article addressing this topic published Forbes.1 I look for new initiatives and collaborations to emerge from Brazilian health care leadership’s intense interest. Overall, it is exciting to be engaged in global discussions focused on the increasing power of data to improve health and health care.



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