Healthcare in Latin America: What are consumers looking for?

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In much of the world, healthcare is shifting toward a patient-centric model that parallels other industries.1The next frontier of care delivery in healthcare,” McKinsey, March 24, 2022. This has involved a prioritization of patient experience and a greater reliance on digital offerings and engagement, among other changes. The goal of this shift is to provide care that is better, more accessible, and more affordable.

In Latin America, healthcare has historically been challenging to access and relatively expensive. Consider that out-of-pocket healthcare costs in Latin America and the Caribbean average about 24 percent of total healthcare costs, compared with 14 percent in the European Union and 10 percent in the United States.2 Shifting to models that are more patient-centric, then, could have dramatic effects. But doing so requires understanding how Latin Americans think about care delivery and what changes they’d like to see.

McKinsey surveyed more than 4,200 people in Latin America to learn just that. The results provide insights into consumer healthcare behaviors and experiences, including how consumers approach prevention and wellness, how they finance healthcare, where they receive care, and what products—such as insurance plans and apps—could meet their needs (see sidebar, “About the survey”). The major takeaways include the following:

  • Sixty-two percent of respondents said they deferred medical care, primarily because of accessibility and affordability issues.
  • Digital channels have gained relevance as a reliable source of information for prevention and healthcare, with 26 percent of respondents relying primarily on them.
  • Preferences are shifting toward more-convenient sites of care, with 34 percent of respondents expressing a preference for virtual or at-home care for low-complexity situations.
  • Eighty-one percent of respondents are interested in health apps for wellness and preventive care—and many are willing to pay for them.
  • Twenty percent of surveyed consumers want to acquire private insurance plans but cannot afford to do so.

We explore these and other findings in more detail, providing food for thought for healthcare stakeholders looking to reimagine the way they meet the evolving needs of Latin Americans.

Access remains a major issue in the region, with respondents deferring medical care mainly because of accessibility and affordability barriers

Respondents to McKinsey’s 2023 Latin America Healthcare Consumer Insights Survey represented a range of demographics.

Digital channels have gained relevance as a reliable source of information for prevention and healthcare

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents deferred care in the past year.

Respondents are open to virtual care, particularly for low-complexity and follow-up care

Many Latin Americans say digital tools are among their primary sources of reliable prevention and healthcare information.

Interest in health apps for wellness and preventive care is also high

Almost half of surveyed Latin Americans prefer virtual options for follow-up care.

Many respondents express preference for receiving most types of care in more convenient settings, such as virtually and at home

Most survey respondents are willing to pay for a wellness and preventive care app.

About 20 percent of surveyed consumers would like to acquire private insurance plans but can’t afford them

About one-third of respondents prefer to receive care for low-complexity needs at home or virtually.

Most survey respondents are interested in health services memberships

A majority of respondents who pay for their own health insurance would accept certain conditions for a less expensive health plan.

Access to health services in Latin America is highly inequitable. Wealthier consumers are focused on convenience and experience, while middle- and lower-income individuals still struggle with affordability and access. However, consumers across different income levels are generally open to considering products and services that meet certain needs and expectations.

Incumbents, innovators, investors, and policy makers have a unique opportunity to address the evolving needs of Latin American consumers by investing in new business models, expanding digital services along the value chain, and designing affordable healthcare plans that put patients at the center.

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