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School's LIFE2015 Conference Focuses on Improving Access to Health Care in Latin America

May 20, 2015
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Steve Ullmann (left), director of the School’s programs in and Center for Health Sector Management and Policy, moderated a panel on innovative technology applications in health care.

Implanting medical sensors under the skin, growing biological computers from algae "soup," and launching patient-friendly cloud-based services are three innovative approaches to improving health care services in Latin America.

Science, technology, health care and policy leaders examined fresh ideas for jump-starting Latin America's health care sector at LIFE2015, "Improving Access to Healthcare," a May 15 conference organized by the School of Business in partnership with Boston Scientific.

"The opportunity to host this conference and engage our colleagues in Latin America is absolutely critical," said President Donna E. Shalala, in welcoming more than 100 health care executives to the daylong event.

“We’re committed to a vision of becoming the most global U.S. business school and the school of choice for health sector management across the Americas,” said Gene Anderson, dean of the School of Business. “Hosting great events like this one is part of that strategy.”

The conference featured Juan Enriquez, director at Excel Venture Management and co-founder of Synthetic Genomics, as the keynote speaker. He spoke about how humans have "flipped the switch" on Darwin, and are now driving the forces of evolution.  "From a vast field of corn to an urban neighborhood, we have modified half the earth's surface, while also increasing wealth and lowering the level of personal violence," he said.

Now, humans are able to modify genes and reprogram cells for specific purposes, Enriquez said. "We may one day drive algae-powered cars or program bacteria to make flu vaccines.  As we take control of evolution, we need to deal with the consequences, both good and bad."

A native of Mexico, Enriquez also emphasized the importance of paying more attention to science throughout Latin America. "The birth control pill was invented in Mexico, but no one paid attention, so the researchers moved to the U.S.," he said.  "If we can keep our brains in Latin America, we can change our countries."

Steve Ullmann, director of the School’s programs in and Center for Health Sector Management and Policy, moderated a panel on innovative technology applications in health care. "As our region wrestles with demographic issues, like an aging population, technology can improve the access and delivery of care," he said.

Panelist Mariano Legaz, Florida Region President for Verizon Wireless, said advances in technology can reduce the cost of eyeglasses and other services in impoverished countries like Haiti. He added that transporting, storing and securing health care data is both a challenge and an opportunity for the region.

From left to right: Robin Farmanfarmaian, vice president at INVICTA Medical; Damian Gilbert, founder and CEO of TouchCare; and health care consultant Edgar De Sola.

Albert Santalo, president and CEO, CareCloud, outlined how the South Florida electronic medical records (EMR) service company has grown to 250 employees since 2009.  "We believe a modern cloud-based platform can take wasteful costs out of the health care system, while facilitating health care innovation," he said. "From contact apps to payments to physician encounters and ordering lab tests and prescription, our platform can help providers connect with each other, while engaging patients at every stage of the process."

Brian Lawrence, chief technology officer for Hill-Rom Holdings Inc., said that low-cost sensors in hospital beds can help physicians and nurses make better patient-management decisions, while helping to prevent pressure ulcers and keep airways clear. "Incorporating IT into the clinical workflow is critically important in patient care," he said. "Being able to prevent adverse events like falls or infections could dramatically improve outcomes, while reducing the cost of patient care."

During a panel discussion on access to health care, Robin Farmanfarmaian, vice president at INVICTA Medical, said technology enables patients in the U.S. and throughout Latin America to take control of their health. "I was misdiagnosed with a serious health problem before I fired my doctors at age 26," she said. "As a serial entrepreneur, I want to help other patients do the same."

Farmanfarmaian is also a proponent of wearable devices, a field she believes is now in its infancy. "I believe we will see epidural electronics – devices worn under the skin – that will monitor your health continually."

Damian Gilbert, founder and CEO of TouchCare, said his company's mobile app enables physicians to make HIPAA-compliant video calls with patients.  "Our telemedicine app is free for doctors and patients, simple to use and it's something you can share with friends," he added.

On the other hand, Early Bird Alert is new app designed to track the quality of care given to patients in home health or assisted living setting, according to Edgar De Sola, a health care consultant who also spoke. "A caregiver signs in and performs the appropriate tasks, which are then recorded and posted," de Sola said. "That allows family members - as well as administrators and pharmacies – to monitor just what is being done for the patient."

Other conference speakers included Mayim Bialik, neuroscience and health care brand ambassador for Texas Instruments, and Stephen Ritz, a teacher and educator spearheading a "green revolution" in the urban South Bronx community.  "We are harvesting hope and cultivating minds," said Ritz, who has launched a hemispheric nutritional outreach initiative with the "Green Bronx Machine."  Wrapping up the conference, Ritz said, "We must all take responsibility for bridge the gap between access and equality in society. As we say in our school, si se puede - yes, you can!"

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