How Afya Uses Technology to Push Healthcare Forward

How Afya Uses Technology to Push Healthcare Forward

Interview by Anja PaspaljAnja Paspalj
Published: July 18, 2023

Who Is Virgilio Gibbon

Virgilio Gibbon is the CEO of Afya and has worked in finance, operations, education, projects, and consulting. He has a bachelor's degree and postgraduate in economics from Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC), and another postgraduate from Fundação Getúlio Vargas and Stanford University, in California.

The development of technology is affecting all aspects of society, particularly the accessibility of education.  

Through business model changes and advances in machine learning and artificial intelligenceAfya, a leading medical education group in Brazil, is successfully keeping up with the ever-evolving tech landscape and offering the most advanced solutions to its customers.  

Virgilio Gibbon, the CEO of Afya, is letting Spotlight in on the business strategy he implements to push the healthcare industry forward. 

Spotlight: Education is a significant part of what Afya does. Could you tell us more about your educational program and what you hope to achieve with it? 

Virgilio Gibbon: Afya is a leading medical education group in Brazil. Created in 2019, it offers integrated teaching solutions for medical students, health professionals, and educational institutions, engaging professionals at all stages of their careers: from undergraduates to their latest specialization, and in the digitization of their day-to-day services, enhancing their training, updating, assertiveness, and productivity. Education is our core business, and we offer an innovative and differentiated medical curriculum through an integrated educational approach. We value the connection between theoretical knowledge and clinical application, with the aim of preparing medical students for the reality of the job market in the health area. 

In addition to interdisciplinarity between themes, the synchronized weekly program content allows for quality control. The group also offers immersion in medical practice; medical internship with an exclusive model, learning tools that generate individual experiences (Virtual Corpse); real-time teaching platform, with student feedback; and active methodologies, encouraging students to think independently and critically, encouraging teamwork and solving real cases. 

Currently, there are 3,163 medical school seats authorized by the Ministry of Education (MEC), about 40 courses in several areas, they are distributed in 32 schools, and more than 67,000 undergraduate students.

In your opinion, how has technology impacted the field of education? 

Technology has a significant impact on our lives, and this applies to learning. In the educational area, this impact is transforming how teaching and learning are conducted. The evolution of digital technologies has enabled access to new tools, resources, and platforms, which have been applied in several areas of education, including in improving instruction and personalization, access to educational information and resources, and collaboration between students and teachers. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation and impact on the sector. At Afya, it was no different. During that period in 2020, we acquired the first healthtech to support the strategy of being by a doctor's side throughout their academic and professional journey. Since then, we have acquired 11 companies: PEBMED, Medphone, iClinic, Medicinae, Medical Harbour, CliqueFarma, Shosp, RX PRO, Além da Medicina, CardioPapers, and Glic. 

These investments made Afya the largest ecosystem of medical education and digital solutions in Brazil. More than an impact on our business, the construction of this digital services ecosystem provided the possibility of an important diversification of services in our operation, generating a very fast growth in demand, in line with our strategy. We also created Afya Digital Health, generating agility in decision-making in each of our activities. Afya has four pillars where each healthtech is allocated: Clinical decision support, Content and technology for medical education, Digital platform to support physicians in medical practice in clinic, and patient-physician relationship. 

The results materialize the success of the digital strategy and confirm that technology and innovation are part of our DNA and that we are moving towards becoming the 'Microsoft of doctors'. 

Gender equality is an important goal for Afya, as evidenced by its inclusion in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index. Can you tell us about some of the steps Afya has taken to promote gender equality? 

Yes, Afya considers gender equality to be an important and urgent goal for society as a whole and is focused on implementing various actions to promote equal opportunities and gender inclusion in its operations. 

In 2023, for the second consecutive year, the company was one of the few Brazilian companies included in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index. This achievement is the result of a strategy signed in August 2021, when the company made a public commitment to have at least 50% of women in management positions by 2030, in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations Global Compact. 

Currently, there are 40% women on the company's board, and we have made several advances, such as the creation of the People & ESG Committee, which reports to the Board of Directors. 

Afya has acquired several companies in recent years. Could you share details about Afya's acquisition strategy? 

Each year we gain consistency in our main business fronts, which always have doctors and medical students at the center of everything. As indicated, the COVID-19 pandemic and the robust use of digital tools accelerated our progress in M&A and the consolidation of the strategy established at the beginning of our operation. One of our goals, for example, is to add around 200 medical seats per year and we are advancing assertively in this objective. The guidance for 2023 maintains the company's pace of expansion and points to a growth of around 4 times the result of Afya in 2019. The objective is to reach a 15% market share by 2028, bringing together schools with a high academic level and a passion for medicine. 

In 2019, we had capital to be used in acquisitions and this strategy combined organic growth with inorganic growth, through these new businesses. The idea for 2023 is to remain active in this regard, keeping an eye on new medical seats and diversified portfolios that contribute to the physician's journey. 

How has the healthcare industry changed in recent years? What role do you see medical content platforms playing in these changes? 

The healthcare industry has gone through a lot of changes in recent years, and those changes continue to happen as technology advances and society evolves.  

Some of the most significant changes include:  

  • Greater focus on data and technology; with the advancement of technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain, healthcare organizations are becoming increasingly efficient and accurate in their work, with more efficient collections 
  • Business model changes; the traditional healthcare model, which focused on hospitals and clinics, is being replaced by a more community-based and patient-centric approach. This means that healthcare organizations are focusing more on preventive care and primary care rather than high-complexity interventions.  

Investment in technology also grew during the transformations that the pandemic brought to the medical career.  

Telemedicine and the digitization of the occupation have opened space for investment in the area, with the benefit of already having a client base with undergraduates. There are more than 295,000 users of Afya's digital solutions among doctors and students. 

At Afya, we are committed to keeping pace with these changes and helping to shape the future of healthcare. We believe that our role in the industry's evolution is crucial and are working diligently to ensure that our students have access to the knowledge and skills they need to lead this transformation. 

We’ll find qualified design agencies for your project, for free.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the health and wellness field? 

In addition to the business being scalable and viable for execution, a purpose for action is essential. It is essential to carry out extensive research to understand the market, competition, trends, and customer needs. This will allow you to make informed decisions and develop a solid business plan. 

I also value prioritizing the quality of services offered, especially in the health and well-being market. It's important to have a relentless focus on quality in all aspects of your business, including the people you hire, the processes you use, and the products you offer. 

Another essential point is to keep up to date. Technology and science in the field of health and wellness are constantly evolving, so it's important to stay on top of the latest trends and innovations to offer the most advanced solutions to your customers. 

Does Afya help prepare your clients and students to work internationally? 

We support our students and partners to develop themselves to complete challenges, and we take pride in producing cutting-edge professionals. At Afya, we support those who wish to work internationally and make a career abroad through teaching that explores trends, combining theory and practice, and with digital resources that facilitate medical management. 

We are committed to transforming Brazilian health together with those who have medicine as a vocation. We bring education and medical services to the cities in Brazil that are farthest from large urban centers and transform local realities. 

Keep up with Afya on LinkedIn and other groundbreaking companies here

Subscribe to Spotlight Newsletter
Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest industry news