OneHealth Medical Center by AXA opened recently in Nigeria’s Commercial City, Lagos, with the promise to pioneer healthcare transformation. Misbah Oleolo, the country manager/medical director of the centre in this interview with Modestus Anaesoronye shares his vision and goal, its integrated healthcare model, alignment with the National Health Insurance Act objectives, and how telemedicine will reduce medical costs for chronic patients in Nigeria. Excerpt:
Recently, OneHealth by AXA was unveiled in Nigeria, a state-of-the-art Medical Center in the hybrid area of Lagos State. What significance does this hold for the country’s healthcare sector now?
It’s a matter of perspective. It gives us a glimpse of the future, yet with 200 million Nigerians and this medical centre catering at best to 20 million Lagosians, 180 million still rely on the existing healthcare system. While it indicates a promising future, it doesn’t alter today’s reality. To make a substantial difference, scaling this model is essential. It’s akin to a strong football team with a weak goalie – success is unlikely. Having one top-tier centre in a nation of 200 million doesn’t significantly impact the overall scenario; it simply guides us where we should be headed.
While there are other medical centers within the country, what’s the driving force behind the OneHealth initiative considering its potential and challenges?
This concept warrants a comprehensive discussion. AXA Mansard, Nigeria’s largest HMO, employs an innovative approach. They offer affordable insurance while operating healthcare facilities. This ecosystem fosters affordability, underpinned by AXA Mansard’s consumer-focused insurance pricing. They’re a blend of customer-oriented service and product. By integrating insurance and healthcare services, we broaden enrollment, aligning with the National Health Insurance Act’s objectives. This network of standardized centers aims to enhance accessibility, quality, and affordability – a pursuit of widespread access to better care.
With AXA Insurance and AXA Health as part of the group, how do you plan to leverage this combined capacity to serve your clients optimally?
Our strategy revolves around an integrated health model with two core aspects. First, a payer – the insurer – offers customer-centric tariffs, enabling higher enrollment. Second, the provider, OneHealth, aligns with these affordable tariffs, thus promoting financial inclusion. This ensures people aren’t burdened with out-of-pocket expenses. By having prepaid plans, we can create consistently high-quality yet affordable services. With greater enrollment, we expand our network, ensuring widespread access. This synergy between AXA Mansard and OneHealth facilitates the fulfillment of our promises.
Considering Nigeria’s current economic landscape, how do you intend to provide affordable services?
It’s a straightforward concept. Despite economic challenges, people continue to celebrate life’s moments. This underscores the need to prioritize health – our most vital asset. Suppose one’s disposable income decreases from N20 to N15. This shift encourages a more prudent expenditure approach. Among all aspects of wealth, health takes precedence. Amid economic constraints, making a small contribution towards healthcare – like plans costing N70,000 per year – translates to about N6,000 per month. Given the situation, it’s indeed an affordable choice. It’s about reorganizing priorities to safeguard what truly matters.
OneHealth by AXA Medical Center offers a comprehensive set of medical services, including telemedicine. How does telemedicine contribute to healthcare affordability in Nigeria?
Telemedicine stands out as a significant cost-saving solution, especially for chronic care. Many middle-aged Nigerians, facing conditions like hypertension, traditionally seek private hospital prescriptions, incurring consultation and medication costs. Telemedicine offers financial savings and convenience. Through video consultations, a doctor can visually assess a patient’s condition and offer guidance. Patients can use tools like blood pressure kits for remote monitoring and sharing data with doctors. This approach reduces chronic care costs by 80 percent, a substantial impact considering Nigeria’s annual health expenditure of 20 to 22 billion dollars. This not only drives affordability but also frees up resources for broader healthcare initiatives, aligning with the concept of smart medicine.
With advanced facilities and technology, how does OneHealth by AXA Medical Center ensure accurate diagnosis and seamless communication, especially in telemedicine?
The foundation lies in our established systems and clinical governance. Clinical excellence standards, staff training, and customer engagement play vital roles. Protocols and guidelines ensure safe clinical practices and trained medical professionals, including nurses and doctors, ensure accurate handling of cases. Engaging patients is crucial, ensuring they correctly use tools like blood pressure kits, understand measurements, and recognize critical levels. Clinical governance evolves through guidelines and training, fostering a secure ecosystem for effective communication and accurate diagnosis. This comprehensive approach ensures the reliability of our services, even in telemedicine.
Nigeria’s National Health Act aims for universal health coverage. How does OneHealth by AXA Medical Center’s vision align with this goal?
The National Health Act’s central mandate is health insurance coverage for all Nigerians. Our approach takes a unique step, not just on the insurance side but also as a healthcare provider. We’re bridging the gap by offering insurance and establishing high-quality healthcare facilities. This aligns with the Act’s aspiration to increase health insurance coverage from 5 percent to 9 percent, leveraging both insurance and top-tier hospitals. Our Medical Center’s exceptional equipment and personnel set a standard, ensuring that payments lead to quality care. We contribute significantly to the Act’s objective, enabling more Nigerians to access healthcare, both through insurance and our advanced healthcare facilities.
Can you give in specific terms what makes you unique, amid the competition?
Our unique selling point is the integrated health model, creating a payer-provider partnership that reduces health costs for consumers. While well-equipped hospitals exist in Lagos, many won’t accept the AXA Mansard tariff due to it being too low. We stand for consumers, offering a provider-payer partnership and a highly equipped medical center with top-quality clinicians under a framework of clinical governance for patient safety. Our distinct value is the integrated health approach.
Putting up a project like this takes a lot, there is a payer, there is a provider. It’s a journey. How did you go about this?
The journey to this point is behind us, and our focus now is on the future. We’re collectively invested in shaping that future. The journey’s difficulties are less important than the steps to prevent avoidable deaths by ensuring high Medical Center standards. Our goal is to replicate this success across all 774 local governments.
Amidst the healthcare skills drain from Nigeria, you returned from the UK. What motivated your decision?
Nigeria offers unique opportunities. While there are challenges, there’s also immense potential. Many experts hesitate to leave because where there’s disorganization, there’s room for impact. In the UK, having 50 top doctors around the world wouldn’t significantly impact their refined system. However, in Nigeria, these doctors could create a seismic effect. I chose to leave a legacy and make a difference where it matters. It depends on which version of Nigeria you’re embracing, opportunities or challenges.
How will this facility counteract the trend of medical professionals leaving abroad?
While OneHealth Medical Center can’t halt the “Japa Syndrome” or fully solve the brain drain, it can serve as an anchor. Specialists of high caliber are crucial. We’ll support their return, fostering partnerships that allow them to bring their patients and even work overseas. Imagine if we had 60 diaspora doctors visiting weekly—it could change countless lives. Young doctors emigrate for security, but as they gain confidence, they may return. In a decade, the OneHealth Medical Center could be ready.
In essence, what message and offering do you have for Nigerians?
OneHealth by AXA is a genuine game changer. It addresses a past failure where insurance and providers didn’t align. We’ve ensured that our insurance and provider arms are distinct, each independently focused on patient benefit. This dynamic ensures accountability—insurance won’t compromise the Medical Center, and the Medical Center won’t compromise the insurance. It’s a game changer in true collaboration.