Let a Thousand Free Markets Bloom

December 10, 2011
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The Center for Health Market Innovations has identified more than 1,000 (mainly private sector) programs in 108 lower and middle income countries. They include:

The Center for Health Market Innovations has identified more than 1,000 (mainly private sector) programs in 108 lower and middle income countries. They include:

Primary Care Clinic Chains often for-profit—are set up to standardize quality and give low-income people more care options. Many chains operate in urban areas where large volumes can help them keep prices down. Inspired by the US drug store chain CVS’s Minute Clinics, entrepreneur Breno Araújo conceptualized Saúde 10 for launch in Rio de Janeiro. LiveWell’s anchor clinic in Nairobi is fully automated to reduce waiting times and provides consultation, diagnosis, and treatment for a wide range of illnesses.

Vouchersdistributed for free or sold for a small fee, increase access to key health services by allowing low-income people to “purchase” (through demand-side donor or government subsidies) a specific package of services from approved clinics which often include both public and private facilities. Kenya’s Output-Based Aid Voucher program enables poor mothers to deliver their babies in their choice of accredited institutions for a small fraction of the normal price. Private maternity clinics have been able to expand their services and extend their customer base to poorer clients as a result.

Health Hotlinesprovide people without access to trained doctors with basic health information and connections to available health services. Well known examples include MedicallHome, a subscription-fee funded program in Mexico, and HMRI, an Indian program funded by government contracts. MeraDoctor is a for-profit health line just launched in Mumbai. Hello Doctor 24×7 is an Orissa-based Indian health advice line so popular that competitors have adopted the very same name to attract customers. Popular throughout South Asia, these well-utilized businesses may soon be replicated in East Africa.