The underdevelopment of Nigeria’s healthcare value chain is impeding potential savings of N1 trillion in economic cost, leaving key industry players worried over poor optimisation of technological and financing prospects explored across the world.
The value chain of a standard healthcare system adequately covers the research and development of new drugs, devices and treatments.
It caters to the production and delivery of healthcare products and services to patients; improved financing options through patients, insurers, and government agencies; as well as information gathering analysis to improve patient care and outcomes.
However, poor government funding, limited private sector investment and weak regulation are still weakening Nigeria’s capacity to build a resilient health system that delivers excellent outcomes to patients, analysts say.
According to a 2018 report by the World Bank, the underdevelopment of the healthcare sector in Nigeria costs the country an estimated $1 trillion yearly.
This cost accrues from increased health expenditure on medical tourism, and reduced economic growth as a result of a less healthy workforce and productivity loss.
Toyin Sanni, founder and CEO of Emerging Africa Group, a pan-African investment group, said the healthcare system has witnessed some progress with increased investments, improved infrastructure, and a growing focus on universal health coverage.
But it has not been significant enough to broaden access to quality care nationwide, with a thriving outbound medical tourism estimated at about $1.6 billion.
“We can explore technology and innovative findings to deepen and strengthen and hopefully fix the challenges facing Nigeria’s healthcare sector today,” Sanni said while giving a keynote address at the 2nd annual stakeholders’ engagement convened by Hallmark Health Services.
“To navigate the complexity of healthcare in Nigeria, it is essential to grasp the intricacies of the healthcare value chain. Each segment plays a pivotal role in shaping the quality, accessibility, and affordability of healthcare across the nation.”
Some analysts suggest that while increased government funding in the healthcare sector will invariably improve infrastructure, the pool of trained healthcare workforce, and affordable services, incentives for private sector investment must equally be improved.
Eddie Efekoha, group managing director of Consolidated Hallmark Group, stressed the need to leverage finance and technology, urging the government to play its part in promoting policies that encourage private investors to set up and contribute their bid to achieving universal health coverage for all.
He said the current operating environment does not give room to as many players as can come in, citing the plan of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to raise the capital base for health maintenance organisations as an unattractive position.
“When you talk about the external environment for business success, government becomes a major factor — formulating the law and creating the environment. The NHIA should look at issues that are truly important and would support the growth of the industry,” Efekoha said.
“As it were, capital will not find you if capital is stifled. When you want to come up with regulations about minimum capital to enter the industry, then you are discouraging even those who are thinking about it.”
The Hallmark HMO, on its part, is hoping to deepen private sector support by leading public discourse on the sector’s plights and driving support to save lives through its corporate social responsibility projects.
However, Uzor Ofulue, engagement partner at Lauren Parker Limited, a business management and consulting service, called for increased partnership between the private sector and government, saying the power and database that the public sector has a crucial role in driving healthcare services.
She said 70 percent of Nigerians still receive health services at public hospitals and 30 percent at private hospitals but the funding is 70 percent domiciled in the private hospitals and 30 percent in government.
“We need to partner with the public sector in a different way. There are state governments that have created insurance schemes that can take us to the promised land. We have a state government partnering with betting companies to promote health insurance. Our biggest points for data today in healthcare teaching hospitals and NHIA,” Ofulue said during the panel session at the engagement.