Healthcare institutions have been tirelessly working to enhance their systems across the region, striving continuously to discover and innovate inventive ways to provide a safer, easier, and more fulfilling experience for patients. Ongoing collaborations between regional health authorities and organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Self-Care Federation (GSCF) have helped drive education amongst the public on better self-care practices, while digital transformation has enabled the healthcare industry to augment direct-to-consumer communications, improve access to affordable healthcare, and expand the self-care movement in more challenging areas throughout the region.
As the digitalisation of the healthcare industry continues to present new opportunities for improved outcomes, there are a number of untapped opportunities which offer tremendous potential to completely revolutionise the patient care journey – particularly in the ongoing effort to expand access to affordable healthcare in more areas across the Middle East & Africa.
According to WHO, 4.3 billion people have inadequate access to essential facility-based health services, prompting regional healthcare decision-makers to call for self-care interventions that empower the region’s population to leverage readily available resources when on-site treatment is not an immediate solution. Relatively, self-care interventions consist of providing education, convenience and lower costs for the public, which empowers people to proactively take control of their general health to achieve better outcomes when they are well-informed about quality self-care and healthcare practices. These are essential tools that provide individuals, families, and communities with the ability to promote and maintain good health, prevent diseases, and overcome various challenges caused by illnesses and disabilities with the support of healthcare providers. As such, self-care is the first crucial step to improving access to a more cost-effective, efficient, and safer healthcare experiences for the greater public.
Another critical step to enhancing the healthcare journey is strengthening the bridge between healthcare providers and consumers through direct-to-consumer communication. For instance, the omnichannel approach to customer engagement can offer patients consistent access to self-care and healthcare information. These experiences include every interaction between an individual and their care provider, which include in-person communication through various digital channels. The latter consists of health apps, video calls, instructional videos, and social media engagement with medical institutions. Moreover, providing more self-service options can create a more personalised healthcare experience for consumers based on their preferences and needs.
Furthermore, offering self-service options can increase organisational efficiencies and reduce friction for patients. Service-related features such as mobile billing, online appointments, and virtual access to patient records can encourage individuals to take ownership of their own well-being at any given time and place. This also allows healthcare professionals to reduce the influx of minor medical cases and shift focus to more demanding or complex medical challenges and patient requests. A successful communication strategy can deliver up-to-date information, actionable insights, treatment recommendations, and more fruitful relationships between all stakeholders within the healthcare sector.
Alongside the overall quality of care provided and healthcare, experiences are the governance of the pricing of products, treatments, and other healthcare services for consumers. Healthcare price transparency can become comforting to consumers, allowing them to be better informed, involved, and prepared for future medical challenges. For example, consumers will be able to see and compare the varying prices for the same service across different healthcare facilities. Healthcare services can be expensive, confusing and involve decisions that can lead to longer-lasting consequences if not carefully approached. If consumers cannot properly research and compare costs that are made available by medical institutions, it can become a barrier to obtaining the information needed to make the right and most affordable decision. The more aware and knowledgeable an individual is, the better they can achieve a higher quality of life with a better bill of health.
To accomplish these goals, we must rely on our ability to utilise the information that we are fed. Raising awareness of self-care and healthcare, especially in underserved areas around the region, is as important as facilitating healthcare services. This helps both care providers and patients understand the circumstances around a given illness, injury, or disability and how to access affordable healthcare products and services for treatment. It takes a collective effort to cultivate the safest and healthiest environment that everyone deserves. By addressing and solving challenges together on multiple fronts and with the right healthcare practices and knowledge in place, creating stronger healthcare systems in the region will increasingly become a ‘sooner than later’ reality.
Mohamed Larbi Jelassi is the Market Access & Public Affairs Expert, Marketing & Management in Healthcare at Sanofi