Tips and Tricks for Healthcare Research in LatAm

Originally Published At EphMRA, June 2019

Latin America is a diverse region, which includes 20 independent countries as well as many other smaller jurisdictions, Spanish and Portuguese being the dominant languages. Its population of over 600 million inhabitants represents 9% of the world population.

The number of physicians living in this region exceeds a million drug prescribers and its healthcare expenditure is estimated to be over 400 billion USD. (1)

Furthermore, if we consider LATAM as a single territory – as it is often simplified externally – this expenditure would make it the 4th largest after the US, China and Japan, and surprisingly larger than certain developed individual markets, such as Germany, the UK or France.

Meanwhile, according to the same data Brazil, which stands globally as the 7th largest market, represents 50% of the LATAM business; and by including Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Chile, you cover 5/6 of the total regional healthcare expenditure.

In addition to its size, the growth trend is also quite strong. The same WHO data shows a robust increase of healthcare expenditure of almost 7% annually, between the years 2000 and 2016, which resulted in an impressive triplication of this revenue!

Research investment, however, is lagging somewhat behind this trend. The latest ESOMAR Global Market Research report estimates that the LATAM regional shares a mere 3% of global turnover.(2)

While there is no reliable data available for healthcare research specifically, our own estimates suggest a similar figure.

Therefore, this inconsistency is probably hiding a large market opportunity and sooner or later market intelligence budgets will align closer, not just to LATAM “future potential”, but also to the extent of the actual size of its marketplace.

The good news is that research methods used globally work generally well in LATAM and virtually all targets, such as doctors, nurses, patients or even payers are accessible. For qualitative projects, generally IDIs or TDIs can be run in a similar fashion as in Europe, although it is advisable to run them in the relevant local languages.

Digital qual, such as online communities, is also starting to emerge. Online research is generally well accepted. Based on our internal data we know that roughly 10% of the doctors in the main markets (i.e. Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina) have participated in one of our surveys, but the situation can be tricky in smaller markets, such as Chile, Peru or Central America, in which tiny universes imply the need for extensive ad hoc, and even f2f, interviewing.

We recently published “Future of Healthcare in Latin America”, (3) a large-scale prospective study showing that physicians are generally tough critics of their own systems in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, while Argentineans and Chileans showed more moderate views.

The main differences with their US peers are not so much their perceptions of the quality of private clinics or insurance plans (in which the ratings are similar and relatively positive), but rather the assessment of the overall healthcare coverage and, more specifically, in the quality of public hospitals.

According to LATAM doctors the most severe hurdles that patients face, which affect a majority of the population, are:

• Limited access to medicines due to high costs and/or bureaucratic access barriers;

• Lack of approval of drugs that would be the best treatment option;

• Lack of available equipment and materials;

• Limited time available for proper consultation and difficult access to specialists.

Thinking about their prospects, on the bright side, doctors imagine a future positively lead by technological improvement and better informed patients. On the dark side, they envision further restricted access to treatments and that the role of the doctor will be increasingly challenged in the healthcare process.

Moreover, they fear they will feel a decline in respect, remuneration and working conditions. The technologies that doctors anticipate will make the most significant impact in this presumed future are preventive medicines, new vaccines, immunotherapy, usage of genetically adjusted drugs, genetic engineering and biologics.

Thus, while there are definitely some tensions in this diverse region’s healthcare landscape, Latin America stands as a solidly growing area with positive prospects for both pharma marketers and researchers. Those who can get a deep understanding of the region – by investing in widely accessible research tools – and provide effective business solutions, will be better prepared to seize these opportunities.

Diego Casaravilla is CEO of Fine Research, an agency specialised in healthcare qual and online data collection, with own operations in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay.


1.WHO. (2019). Global Health Expenditure Database. database/ViewData/Indicators/en

2. ESOMAR. (2018). Global Market Research 2018: An ESOMAR Industry Report. Amsterdam: ESOMAR, pp. 10

3. Fine Research. (2018). Future of Healthcare in Latin America. Full report available:


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