Healthcare Delivery

Healthcare Innovations in India: We Need to Know More

This is the third post in our series, “Raising the Bar for Indian Healthcare”, which highlights the challenges and opportunities facing India’s healthcare delivery system. In this post, we explore innovative healthcare delivery models emerging from the private sector, and how they might fit into government goals of achieving UHC and comprehensive PHC.

India’s immense socioeconomic, ethnic, epidemiological and demographic diversity creates fertile ground for innovation, and this holds true in the healthcare sector. Much has been written on healthcare innovators and novel technologies emerging from India. While the focus tends to be on affordable medical equipment, therapies and information and communication technologies, outside of the spotlight, some private healthcare organizations are unleashing pioneering delivery models to provide basic care to the poor. For our purposes, a delivery model is merely the ways in which care is provided to a person, population group or patient cohort. Understanding the roll-out process, costs and impacts of these innovative delivery models is important in light of government goals to progressively achieve UHC and to strengthen primary healthcare.

Currently, most healthcare in India is of an on-demand, curative nature, and is primarily provided by hospitals and private practitioners. This is especially the case in the ambulatory market. On one hand, public ambulatory facilities emphasize disease-oriented vertical programs and RMNCH services. On the other, private providers, who deliver over 70 percent of ambulatory care, operate on a fee-for-service basis and have few incentives to move away from the prevailing episodic model of care. Yet the changing burden of disease in India, coupled with rapid aging and urbanization, necessitate a new model in which primary healthcare takes a foundational role and there is close and regular interaction along the continuum of providers, including hospital-based professionals, primary care providers, community health workers and home care providers. Recent government directives are taking first steps toward developing such a model with an emphasis on comprehensive primary healthcare, aligned with global best practice. However, government focus tends to be inward – limited to the public delivery system, which is a relatively small player in the healthcare delivery landscape – rather than looking more broadly at the sector as a whole, and learning from innovative non-profit and for-profit players across India. 

The private sector has implemented different types of delivery models that generally aim to provide high-quality, affordable care to those at the bottom of the pyramid. For example, the non-profit CARE Rural Health Mission, which operates in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, is one of many leveraging telemedicine to link trained community health workers with remote physicians at primary care clinics and hospitals. This approach helps to circumvent India’s acute shortage of trained doctors and nurses. In Mumbai, the for-profit Swasth India Medical Center (SIMC) runs a chain of health centers in the city’s slums. Its clinics provide much needed access to drugs, prevention, primary care, dental and diagnostic services, and facilitate referrals to hospitals and specialist as needed. Through smart procurement and efficiency gains from digitized patient records as well as use of standard protocols and referrals, SIMC reportedly offers affordable prices and achieves high patient satisfaction. There are numerous other examples of similar small-scale efforts with potential for scale-up.  

These examples embody the novel approaches being tested at the state and district levels as private organizations employ inventive techniques to deliver reliable, lower-cost healthcare. Yet, for all the successes, there have also been failures. E Health Points, a hub and spoke care model leveraging digital technologies and task shifting in rural Punjab, reportedly is no longer in operation Why was it unsustainable, and why have other models with similar features succeeded? Moreover, do these organizations have the performance and capacity to be contracted under the government’s PM-JAY insurance scheme to deliver a primary healthcare package to support expanded access? We don’t know.

With the exception of highly touted models such as the chain of Aravind Eye Hospitals and Narayana Institute of Cardiac Sciences, which provide specialty care for specific conditions, most of what is known about private sector delivery models focusing on the bottom of the pyramid is from landscape mapping exercises (see here and here) and descriptive case studies. Though valuable for raising awareness and introducing policy makers to these innovations, they lack details on performance, implementation processes and potential for scale-up. Without such evidence, it is difficult to replicate successes, inform policies or plug into government efforts to effectively expand coverage. The lack of evidence may be due to resource limitations and lack of capacity of these organizations to measure impact.  

These information gaps echo the data and measurement challenges innovators and social entrepreneurs face elsewhere. There needs to be a greater research and policy focus on understanding the “why”, “how” and “so what” behind India’s many innovations in healthcare delivery models, rather than just documenting the “what”. This will put government in a better position to adopt learnings and locally-tested best practices in support of its policies for UHC and comprehensive primary healthcare.

 

 

“It’s Complicated”: A Take on the Healthcare Industry in Brazil

Aceso Global CEO Maureen Lewis shares her take on the Brazilian healthcare system. See here for a link to the original article, which is reproduced below.

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What Makes Brazil’s Healthcare system so different? Prof. Maureen Lewis of FGV-EAESP shares her take on the unique mixed public and private health system in the country.

At a glance

Brazil, a country adored all over the world for its coffee, samba, football and Jiu-jitsu, is certainly not just another ‘BRIC’ in the wall. With a population of roughly 200 Million, the country is unique not only through its inclusion into the OECD club and economic tug-of-war between boom and recession, but also by its distinct Healthcare sector. Composed of around 6,800 public and private hospitals, 195,000 service units and almost 500,000 hospital beds (Industry Report, Healthcare: Brazil, The Economist Intelligence Unit, September 2014), the health sector counts for ~9% of Brazil’s GDP (2015), with a health expenditure per capita of almost USD 705 (OECD). Divided into private and public components, the healthcare system consists of everything ranging from small, low quality hospitals to world-class research hospitals.

To cover the costs incurred by the citizens at these units, the Federal, State and Municipal governments have put into place the Single Unified Health System (SUS), the funding for healthcare facilities is provided via the federal prospective reimbursement system, the AIH (Authorization for Hospital Admission). Moreover, there are 6 private high-complexity Centres of Excellence all over the country which provide free health care to the citizens in return for tax breaks from government.

Caught between private and public funding

Lately, a trend has been observed in the spending of the SUS – an increase in funds for public-owned facilities and a sharp decline in funds in privately owned hospitals. The SUS under-reimburses for care for non-public providers, leading to the closure of several philanthropic facilities. This has generated increased demand for private insurance for people to benefit from care at public hospitals.

Such divergence runs a risk of reducing engagement and support for improved healthcare performance by the growing middle and upper-class population who are increasingly relying on private insurers and providers.

As such, middle and upper-class citizens are benefiting from private insurance through their own pockets or those of their employers and at the same time paying for the SUS through taxation.

The economics of healthcare

What makes things even more interesting is that a rise in chronic conditions and diseases across Brazil has influenced a shift in the demand for hospitals towards more specialty care than general hospitalization. This is costing the average Brazilian more than the traditional remedies at hand. As suggested by a private sector report, a decline in the mortality rate can be seen for several diseases and illnesses credited to improved living conditions, rising levels of education and improved preventive measures. The same cannot be said for illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and perinatal disorders which seem to have replaced the more easily treated illnesses. This has, in a way, led to a sharp increase in the average costs to state for diagnosis and treatment.

But not all of this cost expense can be attributed to the change in disease complexity. An argument can be made towards the heavy investments that Brazil is making in technology in healthcare. Interestingly, Brazil has more MRIs and CT Scanners than several of the developed countries such as the UK and almost three times more than Mexico.

Another factor that can be attributed is the demographic of the private insurance enrolees. It is seen that that over 45% of the age groups that use this type of insurance hail from either the under 18 or the over 59 categories, both of which are generally non-performing categories that are highly susceptible to illnesses. The increase in life expectancy rates of the country is ironically, only adding to its woes.

In the face of these high costs and expenditure, it has been imperative for the Brazilian healthcare industry to keep its revenues high. But the recent trends discussed above have led to a reduction in hospitalisations, pushing the healthcare industry towards a risk of loss. Loss ratios have been increasing substantially over the past few years. To gain control over spending and to improve the overall efficiency of the healthcare industry, financing seems to pose a challenge for the Brazilian administration for the years to come.

Complex problems – simpler fixes

The picture is clear. Despite having made efforts to establish a single healthcare system, Brazil’s can at best be described as mixed and fragmented. The government funded SUS finances less than half of all healthcare, with the balance being covered by private insurers and through self payment.

Despite financial malpractices and several other irregularities associated with it, the AIH remains the preferred method of hospital payment, which suggests the need for drastically improving and optimizing its application. In the same vein, amends need to be made towards the cross disparity between public and private sectors of insurance and healthcare providers to ensure that the services are rightly paid for.

The imbalance between inflation rates will eventually become an issue for insurers and the insured, the implications of which could inflict damage to the image and economic health of private hospitals.

A part of the solution could be to close low-volume, high-cost small hospitals. Brazil should further focus on improving management, efficiency and added value, and also adhere to protocols in order to boost productivity and enhance quality. Stricter accreditation norms and keen oversight could help identify waste and promote improved performance, which in turn could lower costs.

Finally, the consumers and patients should be given bigger roles to play in order to facilitate improved hospital function and network performance as part of the country’s agenda for the future. It cannot be denied that the healthcare system is going through a rough patch, but it is certainly worth saving. As the saying goes – it’s always darkest before dawn.

Better Hospitals, Better Health Systems, Better Health

Despite their central role in healthcare delivery and their consumption of the lion’s share of national health budgets, hospitals in many emerging markets remain poorly governed, underfunded, and unevaluated. Hospitals have long been neglected by external stakeholders such as donors and multilateral institutions, and considered “black holes” by government ministries that fund facilities but provide limited governance or accountability. Historically, patients have borne the brunt of this negligence, shouldering high costs for poor quality of care.

This report proposes a Global Hospital Collaborative to transform the emerging market hospital landscape by promoting knowledge sharing, research, and cooperation between global experts and stakeholders in hospital governance, management, financing, and related fields. It was produced by the Hospitals for Health Working Group housed at the Center for Global Development, in collaboration with Aceso Global CEO Maureen Lewis and CTO Gerard La Forgia.

The proposed Collaborative would synthesize and centralize the vast but fragmented knowledge, research, and best practices related to hospital management and financing, as well as integration with the broader health system, and add to this knowledge base through additional research. The Collaborative is imagined as a forum for exchange that can lead to concrete improvements in health on the ground. Potential projects and products could include a web-based knowledge clearinghouse, conferences and webinars, data measurement and analysis, peer-to-peer learning exchanges, and in-country technical assistance. 

DOWNLOAD THE FULL PAPER HERE