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The Challenge of digital transformation

22 septiembre, 2020 • By

Based on my intervention during the 1st Public Health Observatory Symposium, organised by the newspaper El Español on September 10, I would like to share some of the thoughts I was able to contribute to that interesting forum, specifically during the discussion panel dedicated to digital transformation.

When we talk about digital transformation, of the healthcare system and the challenges we face, we must make a diagnosis beyond this crisis that’s been triggered by COVID-19.

The macrotrends within the Health sector are there. We have an increasingly ageing society, and we speak about disease chronicity precisely as a result of this ageing population. There are also three other components or factors that we must know how to redirect or lead in the right direction, to ensure the sustainability and quality of our healthcare system. I’m referring to the introduction of new healthcare and information technologies, the shortage of healthcare professionals and the unsuitable training and experience of current healthcare professionals for the demands of today’s society.

Let’s start at the beginning, along the path that should guide the present and future of our Public Health. Digital transformation must become the system’s springboard.

Likewise, when we talk about our ageing population, we must tackle how we’re going to organise the social-healthcare space that has been (and still is) under so much stress during this pandemic. But we mustn’t resign ourselves to this. We must seek solutions.

Nursing homes must work more closely with the healthcare system, allowing professionals to follow up on residents, especially Primary Care professionals. There’s no need for nursing homes to turn into hospitals, but the Healthcare System must create mechanisms that will allow us to comprehensively follow up on the health of our elderly, the most fragile members of our society, and anticipate risks.

When approaching the chronicity of many diseases, largely due to this ageing population and also because of the advances in treatments, it’s essential to discuss including all the different healthcare levels: from primary care to hospital care, including social-healthcare and home care. As part of the system, we must all share a common vision and outline common strategies for action.

Because there’s no question that we’re heading towards a more predictive and preventive model. It’s important to be one step ahead of circumstances, to anticipate citizens’ health issues, to foresee the progression of their disease… In this sense, primary care must play a fundamental role within the system. Because we’re heading towards a system that, as well as healing, must also take care of and be by people’s side throughout all stages of life.

Which is the role of healthcare professionals within this new model? Through these digital transformation processes that all organisations within the sector are working on, we must disentangle the healthcare professional from more bureaucratic tasks and allow them to focus on what provides citizens with the most value, which is better care, which also entails greater satisfaction and recognition. Therefore, we must leave behind the traditional hospital concept to come home, working hand in hand with primary care, and thus see Public Health in a new light, with a more holistic approach.

To face these issues and enable new solutions, digital transformation is a fundamental platform and an ally to changing the health model, beyond COVID-19.

And these changes and the sector’s necessary evolution have a single objective: the citizens. Because people are going to play a leading role in this transformation. If someone had told us on March 1 that we’d be under lockdown, not just us but our businesses and the entire world, and that we’d be capable of adapting our organisations to working from home in less than 15 days, we wouldn’t have believed it. But we were able to do this and much more, both organisations and people. And this must give us hope, because citizens must take on the leading role in this transformation.

Some say that the population lacks digital culture… We may not know the inner workings of a mobile phone or computer, but we all know that if we want to reach a destination, know the weather forecast or stay in touch with our loved ones, our mobile phone, in short, technology, is indispensable. And that’s also digital culture. Without it, we wouldn’t have survived.

I also firmly believe that this digital transformation will empower citizens, giving them a larger role in managing their health, and making ours a more democratic, open and efficient system.

Technology also makes us more transparent, which involves trust. And digitalisation is key within the British concept of accountability, because transparency makes us more responsible.

In short, we must be capable of doing more and better things.

We can’t forget that digital transformation helps the Health system’s long-term strategies, as well as the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, where goal 3 is good Health and Wellbeing. I believe that these are concepts that we, the agents that work within the system, must all strive for. In addition, goal 17 is partnerships between institutions. I’d add between public and private institutions. Because the goal is to end poverty and provide our citizens with wellbeing, and we shouldn’t place before these main goals nuances, political positions or personal whims that may become an obstacle to reaching these worldwide goals.

These days are highlighting that innovation is linked to public-private collaboration, where we find the pharmaceutical industry, big companies within the healthcare sector that participate in this symposium, and institutions. We all need to work towards common goals, discuss new relationship models between the payer, whether public (such as the State or the Autonomous Communities) or private (such as insurance companies), and suppliers of all kinds (industrial, pharmaceutical, hospital and professional) and, also, reconsider the funder’s relationship with citizens. A new relationship must arise. We must bring to the table the need to share strategies and plans, and change the relationship by moving towards shared risk models, so that we understand everyone’s mission.

Let me finish with some thoughts on this healthcare crisis brought on by COVID-19, which has already been with us for six months, and will most likely stay for some time. It has shown us that, when faced with such a crisis, we should have worked together even more, with a greater joint effort than up until now… I hope that we’ve learnt our lesson and that we’re all aware that, without bringing something to the table, without coming to an understanding, we’re going to struggle to overcome this situation, not only in the field of healthcare, but also in the social and business world. This is the greatest lesson the pandemic has taught us.


A new opportunity

1 julio, 2020 • By

We have been talking about this for many years. The post-COVID-19 reality means that it is now more necessary than ever to undergo reformations in the Health sector that will allow the system to be more flexible and provide it with the tools necessary to face health care crisis such as that we have just experienced. However, most researchers agree upon the fact that COVID-19 has been the first pandemic of the 21st century, but it will not be the last. First of all, we need to be prepared to coexist with this virus, at least until a vaccine is available on the market.

The great axes around which an urgent restructuring of the healthy system must pivot are, in my opinion: an increased Health budget, with total transparency; the introduction of reformations in the management of human resources and implementation of new organisational models, where digitalisation plays an essential role; the overcoming of barriers between levels of care, with greater integration in the social space; and the necessary involvement and collaboration of all resources in the system, both public and private.

Any type of reformation necessarily involves flexibilisation of the health system, the rigidity of which has been causing a lack of efficiency and loss of quality with regards to citizen care for decades. At a time when it is more important than ever to contribute, innovate and position ourselves one step ahead of any health care crisis that may threaten the population, the institutions must be brave and make effective decisions.

I have spoken about the necessary increase for the Health budget, of course, always from absolute transparency, prioritising resources and specifying items. But perhaps the most urgent challenge for a health system such as the Spanish one is the necessary reformation of the management of human resources, where, in my opinion, it would be advisable to redefine the legal framework in order to permit a more modern management of human resources and to introduce variable remuneration models and bonuses, in order to recognise the value provided by professionals at all times.

In the same way as the citizens have new needs with regards to the care for their well-being, I believe that it is essential to restructure the current medical specialties and to make decisions that permit an increase in the number of certain disciplines in order to adapt the offer to the demand for care. Spain is currently generating a large number of specialists that, as a consequence of the technological advances or the demographic profile of the citizens, are no longer necessary in these quantities. Even so, there is a lack of specialists in modalities where jobs for Resident Medical Interns (RMI) are not anticipated. This situation generates imbalances, rigidity in the system, low performance and, most importantly, a decrease in quality and care for citizens. Because if there is a lack of specialists, the waiting lists grow longer.

This COVID-19 crisis will imply an acceleration in the digital transformation process. It is fundamental to implement new organisational models to consolidate the general focus on digitalisation both for health care (with predictive models and online and offline care, useful healthcare websites, direct communication between the patient and their physician, promotion of home care and remote medicine, etc.) and for managing medicines (integrate complements for pharmacists in the care circuit, guarantee online prescriptions and a medicine cooperative, among others).

Another aspect to be learned from this health care crisis is that we must progress the citizen’s perspective as the protagonist of our system and overcome all barriers between the levels of care: primary care, hospital, nursing homes and specialised services. It is essential that we strengthen primary care, guarantee human resources and materials in order to offer personalised, approachable and quality care for our citizens.

It is urgent, after the devastating effect that COVID-19 has had on nursing homes, to reconsider the creation of a single socio-healthcare space in order to break the duality between Health and Social Well-being. Nursing homes must be added to the work areas that are currently integrated to the health departments.

Throughout this transformation, we must avail of all of the agents in the system, both public and private, because if there is something else that we’ve learned from this pandemic it’s that without working together and collaborating, it would have been much more difficult to provide an effective and quality response to our citizens.

I would like to dedicate this article to all of those who have lost their lives as a result of this pandemic.

(This article was published in New Medical Economics on 1sth July 2020)


Let’s build from a place of unity

8 abril, 2020 • By

When we celebrated the start of a new decade a little over three months ago, no one could have imagined that the 21st-century’s first pandemic was knocking on the door. It was a moment when we all wished each other health and happiness for the coming year. Health, what a beautiful word. Today we’re fighting against an enemy that is both invisible and brutal, evidenced by the deaths of tens of thousands worldwide. 

Our society has once again risen to the occasion. I believe that the people across Spain and in our Community of Valencia have given the very best of themselves. The responsibility, unity, generosity, solidarity and spirit of sacrifice of each and every one of us during this crisis and lockdown is far beyond what we could have imagined just a month ago. 

As the head of a healthcare group, Ribera Salud, I’ve had the opportunity to be on the front line of our defence. I’ve been honoured to lead an extraordinary team of professionals (physicians, nurses, assistants, technicians, administrators, guards, maintenance staff, cleaners and more) in Galicia, Madrid, Extremadura and the Community of Valencia, who have served as an incredible example of what this extraordinary profession is all about with dedication, passion, professionalism and efficiency. They have once again proved that we are an organisation of people who take care of people. And I would like to express my deep pride and appreciation for them all. 

María José, one of the amazing cleaners at our hospitals, assured us the other day that she is working «more and better than ever, because this is also my hospital and I want to help put an end to this situation». And Cuca, an administrator at the cancer outpatient centre, told us that she didn’t want to take time off because «we’re a big family and our patients need us right now». Emergency physician Ángel said he felt appreciated by the citizens because, «they don’t discriminate professionals by the type of hospital in which they work, despite the efforts of some politicians”. They insist they’re not special, but their values are an example for us all. There you have it.

I would also like to thank the overwhelming demonstrations of kindness and solidarity from individuals, groups and companies who are helping to make this situation more bearable with their donations and displays of support for professionals. And, of course, the security forces for their impressive public service efforts, whatever the job they are assigned. We also try to stay in close contact with both local and regional institutions to keep them up to date with the evolution of the crisis. Because information and transparency are the cornerstones of teamwork.

Now is the time to start looking to the future and prepare to face a new reality. The damage this pandemic will have on public services, social habits, and the economy will be severe. And once again, how long it takes to get through it is up to us. We need to put an end to divisive debates and to encourage all those things that unite us. This pandemic knows no borders, social classes, or political ideologies. And questioning globalisation and advocating for archaic nationalism is misguided, because the virus has also taught us that this fight requires a global response.

It is tempting to offer simple, populist responses to complex scenarios, but that would be wrong. When it comes to healthcare, I hear confrontational messages about public vs, private, when the response to the crisis would have been a complete disaster without the collaboration between both sectors. Simply impossible. 

When it comes to the economy, I hear criticism of people like Amancio Ortega and Juan Roig, when they’ve served as examples of commitment and generosity and stand as true social leaders. Meanwhile, in politics, different leaders make decisions based on what they think will best serve their position in the short term. 

And that’s not what the virus is about. It’s about changing our priorities and social values. About seeking consensus and compromise, joining forces. About generosity, listening, being thankful. Ultimately, it’s a lesson in humility. Our political leaders have the opportunity to take on this challenge with all the power and vision of the State. I don’t know if they will. But I would ask them to keep in mind the elderly who have died in nursing homes when they make their decisions, because they were not given the priority care they deserved. And the overwhelming number of professionals infected because the government failed to provide enough PPE. Professionals who went to work every day, despite their fears, to fight for all of us. Which is why I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the team at the Ribera Salud purchasing department for their dedication and efficiency in helping to prevent the spread of the virus among our professionals. 

Let’s hope that all those responsible for moving our nation forward will live up to the example set by the country’s citizens. 

(This article was published in the newspaper Levante-EMV on 7th April 2020)


The value of the local sphere

23 marzo, 2020 • By

It’s been one week since the government announced a state of alarm, and citizens and organisations are still struggling to adapt to these exceptional circumstances. We are all writing a line in the Story of managing this global pandemic, the first of the 21st century.

Every citizen plays their part in this situation: health professionals, pharmacists and researchers on front lines in the battle against the coronavirus; workers in basic services such as cleaning, transport, food and the security forces who help make sure that life doesn’t come to a complete halt. And our governments, each in their own area. The Central Government is trying to unify policies, collect daily information on the number of cases and give instructions and recommendations of a general nature, while regional governments, responsible for healthcare management in each territory, feed this chain of information, apply criteria coming from above and take the necessary decisions, transmitting them to the various healthcare management bodies.

I have no doubt that we’re all working along the same lines, towards maximum collaboration between institutions, with the belief that we will all win this battle together.

However, I believe that there is one player fundamental to this crisis, because of its importance as an agent of the health system and its closeness to citizens. I’m talking about city and town councils. In situations like this, the importance of municipal social services and their contact with the elderly and the most vulnerable groups at risk of exclusion, or the local police, essential to guaranteeing social isolation, is a reality that we should value at a time of maximum social tension, due to the circumstances we are facing and those that are still to come. 

And let’s not just think about the councils in big cities. The smaller the population, the more important the role of the local government due to its direct contact with citizens; they turn to it to raise doubts and concerns, and request services. These smaller municipalities often don’t have the possibility of using teleworking, which is why these public servants are also heroes during the crisis. 

At Ribera Salud we have always thought that one of our main missions as those responsible for our citizens’ healthcare is to work hand in hand with the community we serve. And to do so, there is no better formula than being fully integrated into the life of said community. We mutually support each other.

Regarding this, I am very proud as, right at the start of this health crisis, we launched an initiative to improve direct communication with local councils and to intensify coordination among all personnel. The heads of health departments managed by Ribera Salud have already held their first meetings with the mayors of all the municipalities in their areas via video conferencing. Councils as diverse as Torrevieja, Pilar de la Horadada, Orihuela, Elche, Aspe, Crevillente, Torrejón, Daganzo, and Ajalvir, among others, have participated in these coordination calls. And I would like to thank all the participating mayors for their commitment, enthusiasm and collaboration, as well as the enormous support they’ve given us over these past few days.

In these meetings, I can see four principles that I consider fundamental to healthcare management in the 21st century:

Communication between all the institutions, with the objective of always having an open channel for a quick response to an occurrence.

Transparency in explaining why decisions were made and receiving any suggestions that could help us improve and adapt to a constantly changing scenario.

Proximity, as local administrations and health departments have a higher degree of contact with citizens and are a very good source for attending to doubts and transmitting suggestions.

Coordination, because I think it is highly important that local police know the strategies of hospitals or how primary care is working first-hand, and that social services know they can receive training and information to do their job with maximum safety guarantees.

We’re all one. Each of Spain’s 8,131 city and town councils aims to work towards the general interest. For Ribera Salud, the importance of being integrated into the community where we serve goes beyond words. With these meetings we demonstrate the value of the local sphere in the global strategies of any institution or organisation through a very concrete action. Every link in the chain is important and we will continue to work along these lines. Now and forever.


An Agatha Christie One

17 octubre, 2018 • By

We have all heard of Agatha Christie (1890–1976). This British writer, specialist in detective novels, achieved major international success and even set a Guinness World Record as the best-selling novelist of all time. A pioneer in the detective genre, she has been copied and plagiarised: yes, it happened to her work, too, though no copy has ever achieved the success of the original.READ MORE