As the world continues to commemorate the Breast Cancer Month, one of the challenges that has been identified as a key deterrent to managing this monster is the high cost associated with screening and the actual treatment of cancer in general.
In recognition of this financial hurdle that has driven the cost of managing cancer and other diseases to the roof, the Health Committee of the Kenyan National Assembly last year, gave notice to the Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board (MPBD) to implement the 2006 Professional Fees Rules and Guidelines which were meant to usher in affordable medical care to Kenyans.
These rules, called for a review of fees charged by doctors and were backed by the Consumer Federations of Kenya (COFEK) who felt that various fees charged by hospitals across the country were exorbitant and hindered access to healthcare and thus needed review.
The push by COFEK to lower medical fees is a clear indication that financial constraints is a major barrier to healthcare, not only in Kenya but globally. This has led various players worldwide to call for deliberate reforms in this industry so as to make the cost of healthcare affordable.
Universally, healthcare has become a big agenda and different stakeholders in their different capacities are leading from the front in trying to break these barriers. This race has gathered pace as healthcare has been identified as a major player in the economic progression of any Nation.
This means that, there is need to push boundaries than has been imagined or done before, change the thinking and re-write the healthcare script afresh.
In light of the above, other numerous factors have also been identified as key barriers in the healthcare industry and breaking some of these barriers is crucial.
This has hindered access to healthcare in a massive way and breaking through this blockage has been a challenge. The need for privacy, anxiety and embarrassments are some of the psychological issues that are influencing the masses as far as healthcare is concerned.
For example, the anxiety of heading to a medical facility for a HIV test can be traumatizing to some people majorly due to the anxiety of waiting for the test results in the presence of a medical practitioner and the embarrassment that comes with the results if they are positive. In addition, purchasing certain preventive products such as condoms can be an uphill task and all these has erased the gains that have been made in the health sector. So, how do we break this barrier?
MYDAWA an e- health platform in Kenya for example, is cognizant of this challenge and through technology, is offering a platform where one can order and buy any product behind a phone or a computer and thus providing the much needed privacy especially to the youth when purchasing sexual health products. Among other products, one can now buy a HIV testing kit through the MYDAWA platform and have it delivered at home therefore breaking the psychological barrier.
The cost barrier
Having mentioned this factor as one of the major barriers in healthcare above, it’s noteworthy to recognize how various players are aiding in breaking this barrier. MYDAWA has changed the game and brought affordability. The high cost associated with medicines and other wellness products especially in hospitals is being challenged. Through this pillar, patients are now benefitting from affordable drugs and wellness products and most importantly these products are being delivered free of charge, a first in Kenya.
The free delivery of drugs and other products at a consumer’s door step has broken more barriers in that lack of convenience which has also been identified as a major barrier has now been shattered. While there is still more work to be done, it cannot be over emphasised that making mobility easier in delivery of medicines is a game changer in the industry and one can now easily access medicines no matter their location.
With the advancement in technology and science there has been an upsurge in counterfeit drugs, a menace that is common specifically on drugs or other wellness products offered over the counter. The greed to maximize on profit has led to poor quality medicines being dispensed to unsuspecting consumers and this has been a major challenge globally and has impeded access to quality healthcare.
The war on fakes by the government is bearing fruits but that is not enough as it is not consistent and thus there is need to empower the consumer. Through advancement in technology, the consumer now has control and is able to order quality medicines and get quality prescriptions.
The barrier is being pushed further in that customers can authenticate the products they purchase on the web portal/app through a track and trace mechanism. One can scan using a QR code or send an SMS where you trace the products back to the source/manufacturer.
The United Nations has set the pace and adopted a political declaration on universal health coverage. In an ideal situation, this basically means that everyone across the globe will have access to health care when they need it, at all times and without any financial constraints.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the adoption of this agenda focuses on accelerating progress towards universal health coverage, including access to essential health services, skilled health workforce, financial risk protection and access to safe, quality, effective and affordable medicines and vaccines for all.
In Kenya, the Government which is a member of the United Nations has crafted its manifesto termed as the Big Four Agenda with healthcare taking prominence by committing to provide affordable healthcare for all in an effort break these barriers.
Locally, in its endeavor to play its part in breaking these barriers, the Government has for example made strides and licensed e-health platforms like MYDAWA and as mentioned above, it is making significant progress in pushing and testing boundaries in the healthcare sector. It is doing this by enabling consumers to conveniently purchase authentic medicines and wellness products through the app/web portal, a major breakthrough in the health sector.
In conclusion, breaking these healthcare barriers will require thinking beyond the box and discarding the traditional limitations associated with the healthcare sector.1