Nigerian entrepreneur and founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria, Dr. Ola Brown, had a Tweet Chat with Nairametrics on Wednesday during which time she discussed the challenges facing the healthcare industry.
During the question and answer session, Dr. Brown also emphasised the fact that many Nigerians lack access to affordable healthcare in Nigeria. As such, only the very wealthy few can afford certain healthcare options such as air ambulance.
She also noted that until there is a structural reform in the healthcare system, the poor will continue to lose out on how many healthcare options they cannot afford.
See below the detailed conversation we had with her.
Hello everyone! Welcome to this Nairametrics Tweet Chat with Dr. Ola Brown @NaijaFlyingDr
Dr. Ola is a Medical Doctor and CEO of Flying Drs Nigeria.
This episode promises to be very educative; Nigerian Health Sector
Nairametrics: Welcome to this episode! Before we begin, we like to let our guests give a brief introduction of themselves. In one tweet, who is Dr. Ola?
Dr. Ola: I am a doctor/business person/investor who is very passionate about impact and development in Africa.
Nairametrics: Last month, a viral video showed a Helicopter picking up someone from the Lagos-Benin expressway. The Helicopter company said it was a stroke victim. Everyone assumes the patient is rich. Can the air ambulance service ever be available to anyone outside the top 1% of society?
Dr. Ola: Advanced, sophisticated but essential health care services like air ambulance services, transplants, peadiatric heart surgery, ECMO and bypass surgery will remain difficult for the poor to access in Nigeria until there are structural changes to our healthcare system.
Nairametrics: With Nigeria facing revenue shortfalls and the need to fund a universal healthcare plan that caters for every citizen at its highest levels of urgency, what do you think needs to be done to secure the funding needed? Higher taxes for wealthier Nigerians?
Dr. Ola: One of the 5 pillars of healthcare that I highlight in my book is sustainable healthcare financing. There is an entire chapter dedicated to this. Firstly, I recommend restructuring the system to place more emphasis on primary care making the entire system more cost effective
Spending on health care in markets with a larger percentage of primary care physicians (PCPs) is lower at any point in time than is true in other markets – Chernew et al.
I also recommend centralizing tertiary care to improve quality and reduce cost per procedure.
This is how India has created the cheapest cheapest hospital in the world. It’s over 90% cheaper than the US and still delivers similar outcomes for patients.
Nairametrics: Brain drain of Nigerian Doctors has been a long term trend for years. Are you alarmed by it and do you think it can be reversed?
Dr. Ola: Not sure it can be completely reversed. But there are things we can do to help stem it. Did you know that Indian surgeons actually do more procedures than American surgeons in the same space of time?
We can create systems that allow our doctors to access larger volumes of similar patients in an efficient way. This replicates the ‘industrial’ approach seen in India. If they are doing more procedures, we can pay more. We can do more with less.
Tasking shifting; training other professionals to do jobs typically done by doctors, is also important. This brings down the cost of healthcare delivery whilst also helping the healthcare system to function with fewer doctors.
Embracing innovations like telemedicine and virtual consultation can also help bring down the cost of care. We need to look at ways that we can do more with far less in terms of financial resources.
Nairametrics: Nigerians continue to debate whether or not Doctors should be allowed to go on strike because of their importance to society. Which side of the debate are you on?
Dr. Ola: I think we need to restructure the healthcare system so that doctors don’t have any reason to go on strike. There was a time in Nigeria when the banking industry was dysfunctional. There were over 100 banks. But we fixed it.
There was a time when we were spending a lot of our forex on cement imports. But we fixed it. There was a time when the telecommunications network was so an efficient, but we fixed it….well kinda
We need this type of energy, focus & dedication to reform in healthcare. When last did you see bankers at GTB go on strike?
Nairametrics: Telemedicine is defined as the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology. What are your thoughts on its potential in Nigeria?
Dr. Ola: Poverty magnifies the need for healthcare whilst simultaneously decreasing the capacity to finance it. Africa’s healthcare problems are mainly economic. Therefore solutions like telemedicine are important as they drive down cost.
90% of people’s health needs across their lifetime can be provided by primary healthcare from maternity care and disease prevention through vaccination, to management of chronic conditions and palliative care. -Lancet
Telemedicine has exciting potential applications particularly in the area of primary care where complex interventions are usually not required.
Nairametrics: Are you for or against Nigeria ratifying the African Continental Free Trade Agreement? What impact do you think the #AfCFTA will have on Nigeria’s healthcare sector?
Dr. Ola: I am a big fan of #AfCFTA. I think intra-African trade has an important role in driving economic growth across the continent. However, it will not solve our healthcare problems. We still need policy reform.
However, it does make the idea of regional referral centres/centres of excellence across Africa, easier to contemplate. I think these kind of industrial mega-hospitals, will be able to deliver healthcare at scale at a regional level.
Nairametrics: This has been an amazing session with @NaijaFlyingDr We hope you’ve enjoyed this Nairametrics Tweet Chat. Final question for the evening! Do you think Doctors in Nigeria should worry about Robots (Artificial intelligence) taking over their jobs in the future?
Dr. Ola: I think we should be advocating for the type of reforms that will make healthcare affordable, accessible and acceptable to the millions of Nigerians who die every day from treatable conditions
More sick children die in Nigeria than almost anywhere in the world. Trauma patients are x10 more likely to die for their injuries. Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth
To get an idea of the type of reforms that can improve the healthcare system in Nigeria download my book ‘Fixing Healthcare in Nigeria’
Every dollar invested in healthcare returns $2-$10 dollars back in terms of economic growth Health care is an investment, not a cost. Thanks, Nairametrics for the opportunity and thanks to all the citizens that continue the #fixnigerianhealthcare conversation.
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