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First U.S. Healthcare Policy and Trade Mission to Mexico

May 22, 2012

Doug Wallace is a Commercial Officer currently working at the San Francisco Export Assistance Center, and has worked for the International Trade Administration for 15 years.

Thanks to Mexican healthcare reforms, I arose groggily at 5:30 AM and stumbled towards my in-room coffee machine. My Commercial Service colleagues and I organized a Healthcare Policy and Trade Mission of 17 companies to Mexico May 13-15, and the bus was embarking on our medical odyssey in 30 minutes!

Our delegates’ U.S. firms made very interesting products. One made speech recognition software that solved the time-consuming and dangerous global phenomenon of bad handwriting (Give a doctor a pen, and he or she will write poorly in any language.) Others made knee orthopedic devices, ultrasound, infectious disease diagnostics, and air flow aps for clean rooms. One company even sold human tissue samples. Ew.

Off we trundled to begin the Mission at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (hey, the traffic isn’t that bad!) to understand Mexico’s priorities for healthcare services and equipment. Given Mexico City’s notorious air quality, I realized that the Institute must be extremely busy, especially with Mt. Popocatepetl currently spewing ash nearby.

Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez with staff of U.S. Commercial Service Mexico City (Photo Eduardo Sanchez)

Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez with staff of U.S. Commercial Service Mexico City (Photo Eduardo Sanchez)

The Mexican Government is expanding health care coverage to all citizens, and with 4 percent economic growth expected for 2012, this is an excellent market for U.S. medical sector companies. Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez led our group to the Mexican Ministry of Health where we learned about Mexico’s priority for integrating and expanding health information management and telemedicine to expand healthcare into far-flung regions. Mexico’s Director General for Planning and Development closed his presentation saying, “we want to adopt the good practices of the United States, and avoid all your mistakes,” to which I did not know whether to raise an eyebrow or cluck “hear, hear!”

There is a discernible look in the eye and tone in the voice of all the players we met in Mexico’s healthcare universe. It’s… pride. Mixed with determination. This was indeed the case for all the hospital administrators who led us on tours of oncology wings, cardiac centers, and emergency rooms. Deeper we went into the duodenum of one hospital facility, like an encapsulated endoscopy. Then, we turned a corner and one delegate let out a short gasp. There it lay: a Varian Cyber Knife.  This hospital’s street cred was now firmly established.

The next day, we had breakfast with U.S. Ambassador Wayne and the head of COFEPRIS, Mexico’s FDA. Over the past year, license application times and bureaucratic steps have dramatically shrunk. Predictability and transparency in the drug and device approval process have dramatically increased. Mexico is striving to establish one of the world’s most modern regulatory regimes. From an afternoon’s worth of in-depth healthcare presentations delivered by numerous luminaries in Mexico’s healthcare sector, one readily grasped the country’s commitment to provide the best possible healthcare to all patients, while employing sound management and technology to bend the cost curve and serve rural areas.

After such a whirlwind introduction to Mexico’s healthcare market, we thanked our hosts, and are already planning our next steps in expanding into this exciting market.

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