(Image source: Vivawell homepage.)
Ten years ago, Eduardo Iglesias founded Colón Seguros (Buenos Aires), which led five years later to the launch of Argentina’s first all-digital insurance companies: eColón. Recognized as a pioneer of insurance innovation in Latin America, Iglesias has now founded Vivawell, a company that combines elements of insurance technology and medicine to improve the quality of healthcare in emerging markets, starting in Latin America.
“After the pandemic, I watched what was gong on in Latin American and other parts of the world and concluded that entrepreneurs needed to do something about the traditional healthcare industry,” Iglesias recalls. “Whether public or private, Covid showed that it is structured as a sickness system, not a health system.”
In emerging markets, more than 90 percent of healthcare is provided by state-owned entities, whether through a financing or the healthcare side directly. They are structured in a way that they can solve health crises, Iglesias says—but they are not focused on prevention.
Iglesias notes that the WHO recommends that an adult see a doctor at least once annually, and twice for children. However, in Latin America, a person sees a doctor only once every three year—which generally means that people visit a doctor only when they’re already sick. That’s a problem because the chances of treating a given condition successfully diminish as time goes on, to say nothing of preventable illness.
Ecosystem Linked by Technology, Focused on Prevention
Recognizing the value of existing health systems, Iglesias says the need was clearly for a model that complemented rather than competed with them. “What we have done is created a business model I would describe as an ecosystem of different health providers, all linked by technology, with the focus on prevention and primary care,” he elaborates. “Working with different health providers with technology and that focus on prevention, we can create a care pathway to keep people healthy.”
Vivawell’s business model is to provide health and wellness solutions to employees and families. “The model provides several benefits to corporate clients,” Iglesias says. “We help the working population to be much healthier, and therefore more productive and engaged. We work on the wellness side to improve quality of life, and we provide programs to foster a holistic view of health—not just physical, but mental and spiritual.”
Through its complementary approach, Vivawell is aiming to transform health systems in emerging markets everywhere, beginning in Argentina and Mexico. “We seek to complement existing health systems by providing high-quality and affordable health solutions to millions of people in these markets,” Iglesias says.
Iglesias describes Vivawell’s technology platform as composed of a set of applications that manage all functions for the administration of health plans by the company’s back office, by medical attention to patients, quick access to the different health services by Vivawell affiliates, the self-management of corporate clients, integration with a network of health providers, and generation of relevant business and health statistical information.
“We develop based on cloud and APIs and focus on user experience and cybersecurity,” Iglesias reports. “We use agile scrum as a methodology, and we apply continuous integration with Jenkins in versioning and implementation. In source control we use Github.”
Vivawell offers all its services to affiliated clients through a phone app built in Kotlin for Android and Swift for iOS. “Using the app, we carry out the analysis of the health risk based on algorithms,” Iglesias explains. “For telephone and video transmitted on the app, we use the best platforms of communication providers. We have an electronic health record [HER] in accordance with local regulations, and we provide geolocation of our entire network of health providers.”
For employers, Vivawell provides business intelligence with ETL, data modeling and Microsoft Power BI to provide relevant statistical information on the health status of employees.
Vivawell initial approach is to offer corporations a proposition that will lower their insurance premiums. Vivawell also directly benefits individuals through lower-cost services. The cost for a consultation may be prohibitively high in terms of either copay or full cost under deductible, so individuals simply don’t use plans even when they have them. “What we’re doing is bridging the gap, providing that person affordable and accessible prevention and primary care, Iglesias says. “We do that through telemedicine, doctors doing house calls and clinics patients can access at a low cost.”
Vivawell’s goal is to bring high-quality health professionals to patients in an accessible way, according to Iglesias. Currently, in the public sector they may have to wait three months. Once at the hospital, they’ll wait four hours, and when the doctor sees them, it will be for, at most, 10 minutes. “Typically, the doctor won’t have any information whatsoever about the patient,” Iglesias notes. “In our case, the clinician will have the EHR in the palm of their hand, with all the labs, X-rays, etc., that they’ll need to make a more informed decision on how to advise and treat that patient.”
The Difference Technology Makes
What makes the Vivawell possible is simple: the capacity for technology—when united with thoughtful process engineering—to introduce tremendous efficiencies to the healthcare value chain. “Technology today can make a huge difference, not just in the quality of the doctor, but to craft a high-quality service and solution,” says Iglesias.
Vivawell has been operating in Argentina for over a year-and-a-half, with 20,000 individual patients covered. In 2021, the company launched in Mexico with several corporate clients. “The feedback from the market has been fantastic,” Iglesias reports. “The general impression is that individuals and corporations were looking for something like this.”
Vivawell is currently analyzing the Colombian healthcare market, as well as several in Central America. In the meantime, Iglesia says, “Mexico is a huge, very interesting market, so we can grow a lot there.”