Ignacio Oliveri

Ashoka Fellow
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Uruguay
Fellow Since 2017
This description of Ignacio Oliveri's work was prepared when Ignacio Oliveri was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2017 .

Introduction

Ignacio is empowering people to take control over their own health by encouraging them to exercise their right to health education. He is trying to change the secondary role of patients in health institutions by giving them the knowledge to take decisions together with their health professionals.

The New Idea

Ignacio has taken his personal experience with health institutions and designed a way to empower patients in regards to their health care. His methodology allows people to learn more about their health issues, and take greater control of their treatment. ViperMed is thrived mainly by education; people need to gain knowledge about their health problems before tackling them.

This comes with a break in paradigm. Before, health specialists such as doctors were seen as the main source of knowledge and the main go-to for advise. However, since new search engines like Google have developed, this is changing. The patient is taking greater control over its health and to do so it needs to be able to access the proper information, which ViperMed provides.

ViperMed has formed allegiances with several national and international organizations to help them reach their goals and encourage them to distribute health education. The main objective is to transform information that was previously available, almost exclusively, to health professionals and make it accessible for the whole population. Vipermed works with an hibrid economic model, Ignacio looks forward to mixing the social and commercial outcomes of the organization in order to make it self-sustainable and to expand it´s outreach sustancially.

The main aim of ViperMed is for individuals to be able to make informed decisions in regards to their treatment, and not just blindly accept what health professionals suggest. Doctors and patients can start making decisions together. Also, the more information a person has on health issues and how to prevent them, the greater the possibilities of, not only avoiding certain diseases, but also of detecting them and curing them before they become fatal.

The Problem

In today’s medical institutions, patient education methods are obsolete. Many patients do not receive the proper information required to empower them and take control over their own health. This includes having enough knowledge about self-care, patients’ rights, and the proper use of the available services. Methods relating to patient education today include in-person classes, leaflets and in-hospital content production. Yet, these have proven to have low social impact and poor success rates.

Historically, the health industry has focused on empowering the doctor or health professional, causing them to become figures of great power. Although this over-empowering is crucial to understand the problem, the lack of information for patients and the absence of policies to empower the patient have also contributed to the issue in hand. Education in regards to health is a right for everyone and it is not being met neither in grade nor secondary school. Being ignorant in regards to our health leaves us exposed to the industries’ purposes at the time and can lead to the expansion of pandemics such as diabetes or hypertension.

It is crucial to understand that, in today’s world, information is power and patients need to have enough information to be able to take control over their health and treatments. Today, the second most searched topic in Google is related to health issues, which shows that health institutions don’t provide enough information, since patients are looking for answers somewhere else. If this problem isn’t treated, countries will continue to impoverish themselves, and spend an even bigger percentage of their GDP in health care.

Patient education needs to be the primary care, given that educated patients have a radical increase in their quality of life. Also, there would be an increase in adherence to treatment if a patient not only has the complete information, but if they can fully comprehend it. On the other hand, this will lead to the increase in the economic outcomes of the health system.

The Strategy

Vipermed produces content that is presented to institutions and individuals in web and mobile through an audiovisual format. ViperMed works together with the British Medical Journal (BMJ), an organization that has been distributing medical knowledge based on evidence for 190 years. This alliance permits the translation of information that was only available for health professionals and makes it understandable for everyone.

This organization creates tools that promote the education of patients and works together with patient associations to improve their products. By working together, ViperMed can push the health industry and make health education a must in hospitals, pharmaceuticals, clinics and other institutions. The main idea is that the information provided by ViperMed should be available through the Internet, a smartphone app, and also through health care professionals and institutions.

For this to be possible, ViperMed is already present in seven different Latin-American countries, working with governments, pharmaceutical companies, and clinics to distribute health education. This economic model is based on selling licenses to institutions so they can spread the ViperMed model and boost social impact in their area. Pharmaceutical firms pay around $5 to $10 US Dollars per patient educated. Apart from the pharmaceutical industry, ViperMed also sells the product to private clinics, individual doctors and governments, so they can provide education to their patients and reduce their costs at the same time.

In regards to the content of ViperMed, they work with over 500 health issues and diseases. These include diabetes, anxiety, depression, pulmonary cancer, leukemia, obesity, pneumonia, and many others. The ViperMed platform presents a separate course for each disease. The patient can visit the website or mobile app and start the course with a given pin.

ViperMed is constituted as a corporation and has expanded its products in different Latin-American countries. These include Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala and Colombia. The idea has had a huge impact in these countries, targeting groups of people from a middle classed society to indigenous groups in Guatemala. This year alone, ViperMed has reached a total of 20 thousand individuals.

The organization is currently in an expansion phase. Its main short-term goal is to position themselves in four Latin-American markets and begin expansion throughout Europe.

The Person

Since he was a child, Ignacio has been exposed to the medical world as a patient. At the ages of two and six he suffered several asthma attacks, causing him to experience this world from the inside. Here, he earned the vocation to help others and become a pediatrician. However, this shifted after realizing the power and impact that new technologies can have on a society. He therefore decided to pursue a career in systems as a starting point to follow his urge to help people.

Innovation has been a crucial part of Ignacio’s career. He used his knowledge of systems to pursue several projects, like the development of Quanam, a corporative app, or the creation of Azsportech.com, among others. However, his interest for medicine was always present and re flourished after experiencing another medical situation. In 2006 Ignacio fractured both his tibia and his fibula, leading him to experience a year of medical care and treatment.

During this period, Ignacio noticed that, as a patient, he was just a number. Nobody cared for how he felt or if he understood what has happening to him. Also, no one informed him of what he could do or what he needed to feel better. This impotence led him to question what could be done to empower the patient and take control over his or her own medical situation. He came to understand the importance education could have on a patient while he was going through the rehabilitation phase and his doctor educated him through the whole process. This way, he realized that knowledge is key for a patient’s wellbeing.