Clinicas del Azúcar: Tackling Mexico’s biggest health threats

Clinicas del Azúcar is a chain of affordable diabetes and hypertension management clinics that provide accessible preventative and supportive care to underserved Mexicans.

The challenge

In Mexico, nearly 13 million people, or 15% of the population, suffer from diabetes. Diabetes is not only the country’s top cause of mortality, leading to at least 150 000 deaths every year, but also the primary cause of blindness and amputations. Moreover, 18% of Mexicans have hypertension, which puts them at risk of complications such as heart failure and strokes. While many deaths and complications from these conditions are avoidable, only 5% of Mexicans enjoy access to the specialised care required.

People diagnosed with diabetes and/or hypertension have two options for getting treatment: pay out of pocket at a private clinic – which at an estimated annual cost of over USD 1000 only the 10% richest can afford – or endure long wait times, inconvenient appointment scheduling and scant consultation time at a public hospital. Only 19% of patients who rely on the public healthcare system in Mexico control their condition successfully, while the rest risk severe complications.

The approach

Clinicas del Azucar provides high-quality yet affordable diabetes and hypertension care to low-income Mexicans by offering all the necessary treatment for a flat-rate membership fee of USD250-300, depending on the condition(s) being treated. Technology and process improvements allow Clinicas del Azucar to reduce the cost of specialised care by more than 60% relative to the public healthcare system. Its solution has three distinctive pillars:

  • One-stop-shop for diabetes and hypertension care. The clinics’ efficient setup allows patients to move through a full treatment cycle in 90 minutes. To increase care accessibility and convenience, the clinics are located in retail areas and include a store that sells medicine and other diabetes- and hypertension-related products.
  • Fixed-fee membership. This model helps eliminate uncertainty around healthcare budgeting for low-income households. Clinicas del Azucar offers a flexible payment schedule that allows patients to pay the full amount either up front or monthly installments and accommodates late payments. It also provides membership fee discounts for the poorest patients.
  • Treatment personalisation. Clinicas del Azucar captures extensive patient data, for instance, about occupation and physical activity level, and uses it to tailor treatment and messaging to each patient’s needs, which increases treatment success rates.

Impact achieved so far?

In nine years, Clinicas del Azucar has grown into Mexico’s largest private provider of specialised diabetes care, with more than 153 000 patients served to date. While no comprehensive data on the impact of its treatment of hypertension is available, 65% of patients it treats for diabetes (compared to 19% those in public care) have their diabetes under control within six months of starting treatment. The resulting prevention of complications has saved patients, government and the private sector an estimated total of USD 444 million.

Use of Swiss Re Foundation funds

Clinicas del Azucar would use the award grant primarily to develop its “digital clinic” concept. First, it aims to offer all consultations, including personalisation and data analysis, using videoconferencing technology. Second, it plans to partner with larger laboratory and diagnostics chains and/or with local physicians and pharmacies to offer drug deliveries and in-person physical check-ups. The five-year objective is to set up 100 clinics and treat 1 million patients through digital-only memberships.

​Making healthcare financially accessible to low-income communities