Exciting change is happening for healthcare in developing countries.
Start-ups, corporations, NGOs, and governments are finding new and innovative ways to increase access to health services and products. Some of the developments may seem mundane, but they are changing the game in remarkable ways.
Highlights: 2013, a new report from the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), identifies emerging healthcare practices, analyzes the effectiveness of these practices, and spotlights programs improving their ability to serve poor communities. The report features 81 programs working to make quality healthcare delivered by private organizations affordable and accessible to the world’s poor.
Programs by PSI in India, Angola, Somaliland and South Sudan are held up as some of the examples in the report. In India, PSI is using ICTs to support women’s health.
Just over a third of the programs CHMI profiles in India indicate using technology as a core part of their models. Of the 200 programs targeting India’s rural population, many use technology in interesting new ways, including to facilitate remote diagnosis of rural patients, make health records at peripheral clinics available to central health providers, and allow providers and patients to access health education and awareness information. Saadhan, a PSI-affiliated program, runs a helpline that provides counseling and information services to improve women’s health. Saadhan also tracks clients with software so its counselors can follow-up with repeated callers.
Distribution is another important area. Coming up with an innovative solution to a problem like malaria is a big advance, but it has to get out to people in hard-to-reach parts of the world. That is where PSI steps in to work with the supply chain.
Organizations are using alternative means of transportation to get medicines to remote destinations. As of May 2013, World Health Partners in India was employing 50 locals on motorcycles, called “Last Mile Outriders,” to take drugs to rural clinics. In Peru, APECA uses canoes and boats to distribute cofres medicinales—or medical chests with essential medicines—to communities along the Amazon River. Another distribution solution that seems to be growing in popularity is using existing supply chains to bring health products to consumers. ColaLife utilizes Coca-Cola’s established supply chains to bring essential medicines to communities. Similarly, Clinics4All uses commercial supply chains to increase access to medicines across Africa and Asia, as does PSI Angola, PSI Somaliland, and PSI South Sudan.
CHMI will soon release data that measures the impact of organizations on health and economics in developing countries. Program Director Donika Dimovska recently described the plan in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
We will continue to track the growth of developing country health markets. But the question still remains: Which organizations are achieving health and financial results important to national and global health policy makers, donors, investors, and other health care managers? A standardized set of performance metrics could help fairly compare organizations and set reliable benchmarks. The good news is we’re working on that, in collaboration with others such as the Impact Investment & Reporting Standards (IRIS) team at the Global Impact Investing Network.
With a better understanding of which health organizations in these extremely dynamic health markets are having an impact, we can better track and support the scale up of care that is measurably improving the lives of the poor.