ACCESS Health International was recently invited to participate in the launch of a report from the Economist’s Intelligence Unit on Access to Healthcare. Ensuring equal access to high quality and affordable health is at the heart of everything we do here at ACCESS Health International.
Unfortunately, as the Economist report exposes, the pace of change toward universal access to healthcare differs widely among countries. Based on our work in Asia and Africa, I believe the reason for these differences is often a result of three main things:
Political Leadership: Government spending on healthcare is an important show of leadership but it alone is not enough. Political leadership for healthcare is critical to drive reforms. Places where we have seen major improvements in access to healthcare over a relatively short period of time have reforms anchored in a strong commitment at the highest levels which can influence people working in the healthcare system at every level.
Governance and Management Structures: Countries where we see a significant and rapid improvement in access to healthcare have made necessary changes to their management and oversight structures. The most common is the introduction of a purchaser of healthcare, separating the payer and the providers of healthcare services.
Data and Research to Inform Policy: Countries that have reformed their healthcare systems and implemented sustained improvements have built structures, capacity, and processes to use data to course correct reforms. There are major opportunities for countries to use the advantages of technology and new sources of data to drive improvements in healthcare. This requires data standards and management that many countries miss today.
There is a growing focus on improving the access to healthcare. Improving access to care is relatively easy if you have political leadership, additional funds, and new structures. Improving quality of healthcare services within the healthcare system is much harder. Quality of healthcare services is the main challenge to reduce morbidity and mortality in many countries. Countries should be more focused on this important aspect of reform.