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These strategies can help fix Nigeria’s healthcare system– Experts

Nigerian healthcare professionals are increasingly bridging the gaps in the country’s healthcare system through innovation and investment.

Nigeria’s health system faces challenges including inefficiencies, escalating costs, and variations in health care quality, access, and results. A wide agreement exists that the system needs transforming. A reformed system would deliver better care.

These experts highlight strategic areas of strength and future proof in Nigeria’s healthcare systems that can be implemented to transform operations and improve collaboration and coordination of service delivery while improving the sector.

They say data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) both play a crucial role as key healthcare delivery catalysts, noting that Nigeria needs to improve on its healthcare financing which will enable increasing healthcare sector attractiveness.

One of such experts is Richardson Ajayi, executive vice-chairman, Bridge Clinic and chairman of LASUTH Board said healthcare providers should adopt innovative operating models to manage the balance sheet and cash flows, such as the ‘PropCo /OpCo model’(where the property assets are moved into a separate vehicle, to make the operations asset-light) or the “focused factory model” (where the provider focuses on select healthcare services to optimize resources and ensure quality healthcare delivery).

Ajayi said the government should focus on improving and implementing regulation that would encourage the return of skilled Nigerian medical doctors (up to c.40percent of registered doctors currently practice abroad), improve outcomes, and ultimately support healthcare sector growth.

Also, a tier-based capital system can be considered, where minimum capital requirements are set for each cadre of healthcare providers; to support the provision of quality healthcare service delivery.

He added that Hospitals should consider outsourcing the hospital management services to professionals who will be responsible for hospital administration activities, while doctors focus fully on healthcare delivery.

“Public Private Partnership convergence is very important – the government simply cannot do it all. Outsourcing the primary/secondary healthcare segments to the private sector, while the government focuses on the tertiary healthcare segment as well as regulation will go a long way in solving our problems,” he said.

Similarly, Obinnia Abajue, chief executive officer, Hygeia HMO Limited said of some factors which are expected to increase sector attractiveness in the medium to long term is Mandatory healthcare insurance, Given that c.95percent of private healthcare spend is OOP, the implementation of mandatory health insurance (penetration is currently less than 5%) will significantly stimulate demand for healthcare services in Nigeria.

“Retail health insurance coverage, from a demand perspective, is key to achieve the type of scale desired by health insurers today – especially in light of Nigeria’s informal economy,” he said.

However, Nigeria’s healthcare improvement can be witnessed with the strides and determination by these major stakeholders in the health industry that have taken actions to adopt and implement principles and approaches. They see data has driven several sector-led revolutions and investment can shape the sector better.

Nevertheless, in the Sub-Saharan healthcare market, lack of data has negatively impacted healthcare information systems and processes – which are well behind par from a regional comparative standpoint.

Technology has provided an opportunity for the convergence of traditional tech providers, academia and healthcare providers to form partnerships to deliver, manage and distribute advanced healthcare applications by utilizing AI algorithms – including auto diagnosis of certain medical conditions, data interpretation and the use of virtual technologies to remotely run hospital beds.

“Data is the future – our ability to utilize data from a financing or clinical outcome perspective is key to bridging the existing healthcare infrastructure gaps across the region,” said Eyong Ebai Regional Lead, GE Healthcare.

The healthcare sector requires long term capital, which is critical to project viability and sector development. The CBN recently launched the N100 billion health sector intervention funds for new and existing Nigerian healthcare businesses.

“Ninety-nine percent of the FGN’s revenues in Q12020 were spent on servicing the country’s debt, leaving no funds for essential services like healthcare and infrastructure. The FGN needs to put in place some fiscal policies that will free up capital to invest in key sectors like healthcare and education,” said Ola Brown, Founder, Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Company.

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