The Joint Learning Network Costing Workshop: What Did We Learn?

Costing Workshop - Group Photo-2
The workshop brought together participants from ten member countries of the Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage.

At the end of August, I was lucky enough to help organize the first ever Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage train the trainer workshop on costing of health services for provider payments. The five day workshop taught participants how to design a costing study and how to train other practitioners to use costing study techniques. The workshop included participants from ten Joint Learning Network countries, including India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Ghana, Malaysia, Vietnam, Kenya, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Moldova.

I am not a costing expert and thought it might be helpful to break down some of the key questions I had about costing before the workshop began:

Why Costing?

There is still a large knowledge and practice gap among health policymakers and practitioners in the area of provider payments. A shared understanding of how to gather, analyze, and update health services costing information for provider payments is essential to enable a healthcare model that delivers access for all. A clear idea of the cost of health services for provider and payer enables us to set fair, transparent, and efficient provider payment rates. The costing process can help to keep total payments to providers within available resources. Fair and efficient payment rates create incentives that lead providers to improve efficiency, quality, and responsiveness to patients.

Why Train the Trainer?

The workshop was designed to increase literacy among Joint Learning Network member countries around costing of healthcare services for provider payments. The workshop was also designed to enable participants to return to their country contexts and spread the knowledge they have gained. By the end of the workshop, participants were able to design a costing study and were ready to train others in their home countries. This train the trainer workshop is a pioneering step toward adopting a scientific approach to costing studies across countries and spreading this methodology as far and wide as possible.

Participants from Bangladesh and Ghana crunch some numbers.
Participants from Bangladesh and Ghana crunch some numbers.

Why Joint Learning?

To share successes and obstacles often shows us how much we have in common. Participants could draw on a wide variety of practical examples to help them think through how to overcome challenges they may face in their own countries. The most successful moments of the workshop were those where participants, often from very different countries, worked together. You can imagine how much knowledge participants from ten countries have to share. I won’t use any clichéd expressions, such as “two heads are better than one” and “why reinvent the wheel,” but, well…

Where Does the Knowledge Come From?

The Joint Learning Network Collaborative on Costing of Health Services for Provider Payment provides an ongoing forum for technical professionals to share experiences and solve common problems related to the costing of healthcare services. The Costing Collaborative created a core working group of country and international costing experts. The working group synthesized the rich experience of Joint Learning Network member countries and developed a costing manual. This manual documents the main costing methodologies, shares examples of tools and templates, and uses case examples to illustrate their application in different country contexts. The manual was at the core of the workshop curriculum and proved a valuable practical toolkit. Every participant went home with a copy to use in their own trainings. The costing manual is available online. The manual helped me get my head around a technical topic and demystify what costing is all about.

How Can We Keep These New Lessons Alive?

The learning and sharing around costing doesn’t stop here. To continue the momentum and enthusiasm going forward, a costing forum is being set up. All participants have been registered on the internal portal of the Joint Learning Network so they can stay connected to one another. Through the portal, participants will be kept informed about the progress and developments of costing capacity building plans in other member countries and keep everyone informed about the implementation of their own training design plans. Participants will also engage some of the other country experts in their training courses and potentially take the opportunity to collaborate and cohost training programs in the region. The workshop and costing forum are fantastic first steps toward making costing literacy a reality in many of our Joint Learning Network member countries.