During the past 17 years, I have witnessed a significant change in the economies of several emerging Latin American countries. I have seen how the growing middle classes are now migrating from the public healthcare systems and seeking access to the few private healthcare providers available, which are operating over capacity. 

The increased demand is causing the price of healthcare delivery to go up, and the quality and safety often are compromised. Therefore, in order to meet the increased demand, I foresee an emphasis on the development of new facilities focused on safety and quality standards with performance-based accreditation throughout Latin America.   

In countries such as Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Colombia, where private healthcare often has been the business equivalent of a mom-and-pop retail venture, HKS is currently working with clients focusing on the introduction of vertically integrated insurance and healthcare provider systems, similar to those in the United States. 

The increased demand for trained staff and clinicians has become more evident, prompting government subsidies for the development of teaching hospitals and nursing schools. Our academic medical center clients, who had been used to working within the protective bubble of academia, now see themselves forced to perform in a competitive business environment in order to survive. It is certainly a new mindset. 

Some development of new facilities often is initiated by government agencies as public-private-partnerships, others by developers and others by insurance companies, some of which try to mimic the Kaiser Permanente model. Most of these have never been involved with facility planning, construction, management or operations, or delivery of care. That provides an additional challenge for our design professionals, who are used to working for medical systems in the United States. 

Learning the language and becoming sensitive to the local culture are not the only obstacles we have had to overcome while serving our growing clientele throughout the emerging economies of Latin America. 

Clients in the region see U.S.-based healthcare design firms, not only as architects and engineers, but also as facilitators to trusted advisors for the fulfillment of accreditation and operational and business requirements of the project. Our clients are seeking consulting with more than just design, planning, and systems engineering, but also on business feasibility analysis, procurement of medical equipment, and commissioning of new facilities.  

As healthcare facility development continues to change in the emerging economies of Latin America, we have become more nimble in the way we serve our clients. I am curious to learn what other industry professionals have experienced in Latin America. If you have an interest or would like to share any lessons learned, please don’t hesitate to comment below.