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Guest Blog: My Key Highlights from the Healthcare Business International Conference

Farid Fezoua — Global Director of Health, Education & Services, International Finance Corporation

Global healthcare is in flux. Amid shifting demographics, rapid technological transformation, climate-induced risks, and changing patient expectations in the face of widening disparities, traditional healthcare models are falling short. How do we reverse this trend and keep global development on course? What can we learn from emerging market contexts?

First, we need new models to plug the demand-supply gaps in global healthcare. This is not just about leveraging new technologies like AI or telemedicine to improve healthcare delivery. It’s about retooling the entire health system to work together more efficiently. In many emerging markets, persistent challenges like rising treatment costs and lack of adequate diagnostics constitute a barrier to healthcare access, particularly for people in lower income brackets.

In Africa, for instance, there is only about one MRI scanner per million people compared to as many as 37 MRI scanners per million in the United States. Prices for basic generic medicines are higher in low and middle-income countries, compared to high-income countries, according to a report by the Centre for Global Development. To drive impact at scale, the World Bank has committed to boost access to healthcare for 1.5 billion people across the globe. We can achieve this feat – and even more – by working together. From the World Health Assembly in Geneva to the 2024 Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, I am excited that a chunk of stakeholders across the broader health sector continues to show remarkable commitment in this regard.

Secondly, in healthcare – like in most other sectors – people are the ultimate resource. Let’s face it, resilient healthcare systems are built by people – people driven by a culture of excellence and accountability. Yet, many providers in emerging markets grapple with a shortage of management and clinical talent. According to WHO projections, there will be a shortfall of 10 million healthcare workers by 2030, and low- and lower-middle income countries will be the hardest hit. In Africa, the ratio of doctors, nurses and midwives per 1000 population is only 1.55 – a far cry from the WHO threshold density of 4.45 health workers per 1000 people. Evidence shows this is a recipe for poor health outcomes.

Technology and AI will help augment capacity and capabilities but investment in health systems requires commensurate attention to the capabilities of health professionals. A well-trained and motivated workforce can help to put the human aspect of care at the center of health services delivery and raise the bar on patient experience. We must roll up our sleeves and invest in a strong workforce to advance the global health agenda.

My third takeaway is the all-important role of governance. Governance sets the pace for standards, boosts quality of care, fosters equitable access to healthcare and guarantees superior patient experience. It also defines the relationship between different actors involved in healthcare – ensuring that health systems deliver value in a way that is efficient, equitable, and measurable. What has remained a headache over the years is the absence of a unified standard industry methodology for measuring impact. IFC has taken the lead in designing tools to monitor and manage quality, benchmark performance, and gauge impact.

Tools like our IQ-Health, Healthcare benchmarking and AIMM are good examples. Another example is our Ethical Principles in Healthcare or EPiHC initiative – which has become a veritable framework for navigating complex situations, promoting compliance, ethical decision-making, and deepening transparency and trust.

Lastly, I want to appreciate our friends and partners Healthcare Business International for convening such a timely forum as well as all the committed Healthcare investors, technology partners and services providers. Let’s continue to explore concrete ways to accelerate progress on global health.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Chris O'Donnell or call 0207 183 3779.