OPINION: Making African Health Care Radically Cheaper
Thursday, September 18, 2014
When I flew into Lagos last month – only a few days after Nigeria had confirmed its first case of the Ebola Virus Disease – the city was clearly deep in risk management mode. Government agencies were scrambling to communicate consistent information releases to locals, while international companies were lining up employees at airport departure lounges to fly them to safety. Nearby in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the situation was even more dire, with border closures and international flight bans in full force.
And it’s no wonder. As the tragedy of this particular Ebola outbreak has grown, it has become increasingly evident that health systems across West Africa are painfully underprepared to handle such a crisis. Diseases like Ebola do not discriminate between the rich or poor; West Africa needs health delivery systems that are equally democratic.
Disruptive innovations can play a critical role in democratizing healthcare by making goods and services affordable and convenient enough that large populations of under-served consumers become able to access them. A well-known example is India’s Aravind Eye Hospital, which brought affordable eye care to millions in low-income communities by innovating around service delivery and optimizing patient throughput. Entrepreneurs and private-sector organizations are particularly well-placed to bring such disruptive innovations to life. They are more nimble, and have more incentives to innovate for scale and sustainability.
- Health Care