Getting inclusive health care right requires transparency


A nation’s progress is measured by the health of its people, who drive the economic engine. PHOTO | FILE

Health care is a universal need that presents both a challenge and opportunity. Many have taken a swipe at it, trying to provide affordable cover to the masses.

Finding the perfect blend of service and cost has proven difficult even with the use of technology.

Safaricom was most visible with their Linda Jamii product, which while solid in most ways, failed to pick up, sending their consortium of partners back to the drawing board.

I have been part of the Health Advisory Panel at Safaricom for a little over a year now and have had a front row seat on the service permutations and models to get to a sustainable health care services nirvana at scale.

The output of this continuous product review and stakeholder engagement following the poor performance of the Linda Jamii product, and taking a different tangent on the same problem is M-Tiba that Safaricom has launched in collaboration with CarePay and PharmAccess.

M-Tiba is a health payment platform that aims to deepen the ability of Kenyans to access health care. It provides a dedicated M-Pesa-based wallet that channels donor funds meant for health services directly to recipients.

The wallet can only be used at licensed health care providers and pharmacies preventing abuse and leakage from repurposing of the funds while providing effective tracking and monitoring.

M-Tiba has been on trial for the last nine months at 44 clinics in Nairobi, reaching 10,000 beneficiaries. In future, M-Tiba will be linked to all 23 million M-Pesa customers and grow to include value-adds such as savings and insurance.

To manage the health wallet payments and connect health care providers to M-Tiba, an independent company CarePay has been set up to provide real-time insights to the costs and services provided.

The coding talent behind the platform is largely local, a further testament to the quality of our HR pool.

M-Tiba brings transparency and accountability for all stakeholders in the health sectors by reducing inefficiencies in the system.

For users having health benefits such as an insurance cover or vouchers stored on the phones, it gives them the peace of mind that they can pay, and allows them to choose the health care provider. Health care providers receive more paying customers and are paid without delay.

This improves the cash-flow and reduces the transaction costs and leaves room for them to invest in quality.

Donors, governments and insurers can have full transparency on the use of their funds, and can reach their target beneficiaries in a direct, efficient and effective way.

Pfizer Foundation is on board as the first donor partner, funding an M-Tiba programme for people living in the slums of Nairobi.

PharmAccess is promoting public-private partnerships. The power of a nation is measured by its people and health is at the centre of that economic engine.

Njihia is CEO of Symbiotic | | @mbuguanjihia.