Never before has it been more evident that events in one country may have far-reaching effects on other geographies. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the vulnerability of even the most robust and well-funded health systems on a global scale. More than half of the world’s population lacks access to adequate healthcare services. Offering affordable and sustainable healthcare is one of the most valuable gifts a country can bestow upon its people.
What does it take to develop a sustainable health system in the least-resourced countries in the world? How can we guarantee that residency is not correlated with survival? In the first panel of the Executive Summit 2022—healthcare for everyone—the panelists attempted to answer these concerns by sharing what they've done, the opportunities, and the challenges and approaches they've taken to provide affordable healthcare while remaining prosperous.
Hatem Elgabaly, Chairman of RAYLAB Group, believes that technology will be the way forward in an expanding country such as Egypt to ensure accessibility, equality, and affordability. Recognizing the importance of technology, Elgabaly noted, “they always sell you this very famous phrase: think out of the box, but what is this box? How big is it? What does it do? What is inside?” Elgabaly stated, “after more than 40 years, I realized that there is no box. The problems are the same, but the tools are different,” using the stethoscope as an example of a tool that has fallen out of use due to the availability of more advanced, artificially intelligent diagnostic systems.
By developing a digital platform that facilitates communication between physicians and patients, the RAYLAB Group has effectively used technology to increase care access and reduce local facilities' overload. The platform proved invaluable, not only during the pandemic but also in addressing mental health issues.
Furthermore, Elgabaly feels that virtual engagement can enhance distance education or cross-border consultation to provide higher-quality care for patients in rural and isolated areas. He advocates combining industry and academics to increase educational effectiveness. The RAYLAB Group also runs a free early-detection program for breast cancer in remote areas for women over 40. “Technology will play a significant role in increasing accessibility,” Elgabaly concluded.
The fundamental issues are the same in the Philippines as in Egypt, as shown by Paolo Borromeo, President, and CEO of Ayala Healthcare Holdings. In the Philippines, while only 10% of the population has access to private healthcare insurance, medication accounts for 70% of out-of-pocket expenses, and access to treatment is restricted due to gaps in capacity and competency, noted Borromeo.
Among the over 7,000 islands, there is a major geographical disparity in the distribution of hospitals, with around two-thirds of them located on the main island. In addition, about 69,000 additional physicians are required to meet World Health Organization requirements. As part of the Ayala group and one of the Philippines’ leading providers, AC Health is expanding access and affordability through an integrated care delivery ecosystem. This system includes pharmaceutical distribution, digital health services, and medical facilities. Each of these contributes to lower costs and increases access across the healthcare continuum.
Furthermore, the Ayala group also funded an online medical diagnostic tool to assist fill the gaps in personnel and supplies needed to reach outlying regions. Their long-term goal is to provide physicians and other healthcare professionals with superior resources and reliable platforms to deliver high-quality patient treatment.
Om Prakash Manchanda, Managing Director at Dr Lal PathLabs, believes that healthcare in India is a “very large opportunity” even though the triple threat of high costs, limited availability, and widespread inequity plagues it. Dr Lal PathLabs capitalized on the diagnostics industry’s Hub-and-Spoke business model, where the Hubs are the laboratories, and the Spokes are the collection points that provide sample transport throughout the nation.
An app allows users to schedule an appointment with the closest mobile phlebotomist, who then travels to the patient's location to provide treatment. This approach has drawn parallels to the Uber business model, allowing Manchanda to prioritize logistics above the creation of new laboratories to reach every community in the country. Manchanda concludes by noting the positive aspects of COVID-19, which brought public and private healthcare closer together to benefit India’s fragmented healthcare system.
The panel’s final speaker, Lara Rabiu, Investment Director at Oppenheimer Partners, delivered a resounding call to action to invest in the African continent. For Rabiu, the healthcare industry represents a “greenfield” investment opportunity because of the low cost of data, the absence of cumbersome legacy systems, and the fact that many businesses are effectively beginning from ground zero. Rabiu identifies the small size of businesses and the decline in fundraising, which together account for 9% of the total, as obstacles to investment today. “We can invest up to $250 million in any single asset, so what’s the problem?” Rabiu said.
While the funds are readily accessible, investors are uninterested until the market experiences more consolidation and opens up to additional chances on a larger scale. To overcome these problems, Rabiu advocates a partnership with the world of investors to redistribute capacity and concentrate healthcare systems, using the fragmented but now centralized oncology industry to set a precedent. In addition, she suggested focusing on younger generations to utilize technology and creating subscriptions to make “people pay for the solutions that we are coming up with,” Rabiu stated.
Moreover, Rabiu remarked, “Why should this matter to all of us? We saw it during COVID-19. It gave us all the same math problem,” adding that investment in emerging healthcare economies might relieve pressure on healthcare in western countries.
Globally, the problem of providing inexpensive and accessible care persists, although solutions have improved. According to the panel, technology and efficient business models are driving forces to succeed while doing good.
Further Reading: Insights Series
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