Transforming primary healthcare ecosystems from the inside out

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Oct 15, 2020
By the Philips Foundation team
Helping people all over the world to provide access to affordable medicines. That is what Joost van Engen is doing with his company Healthy Entrepreneurs, which is growing rapidly. The Philips Foundation, in collaboration with Ashoka, supports this social entrepreneur’s mission, by helping to increase the number to 10,000 newly trained healthcare professionals who can provide access to healthcare for more than 20,000 people per day.
Healthy entrepreneur

What are the reasons why someone would want to become a doctor in low-resource settings? To help people, or to obtain job security? What happens when you encounter someone you cannot help? That was exactly the situation that Tosca Terra, Business Development Manager at Healthy Entrepreneurs, found herself in during a field visit, when she and a community health worker encountered a sick child but did not have the tools to diagnose her illness.

 

The health worker instructed the family to seek care at the closest hospital, but the closest hospital was over an hour and a half away by car and had limited resources to care for patients. For many families, distance, cost, and quality of care are strong deterrents for receiving the care they need.

 

Healthy Entrepreneurs, founded by social entrepreneur Joost van Engen, is an organization that equips local community health workers with the technology and training to offer accurate diagnoses and prescription medicine to rural communities across Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

 

Two years ago, they imagined a ‘Doctors at Distance’ approach to provide a toll-free line where health workers can call doctors from anywhere, at any time. By calling doctors directly, community health workers can get the advice they need to offer more thorough consultations to their communities and track the treatment plan. This became a top priority when the pandemic hit.

 

While working with Philips, they were able to create the dedicated call-line and recruit doctors to provide consultations. They added diagnostic services to the Healthy Entrepreneurs portfolio including a device to detect childhood pneumonia. They evolved from seeing themselves solely as a health provider to recognizing the role they can play in boosting (youth) employment across the region by training additional community health workers and together they developed a model to scale nationally across Uganda.

 

Scaling the Doctors at Distance-approach in Uganda

 

They are already observing positive signs from this program. For the 50 community health workers chosen to pilot the call center and new diagnostic services, they have on average seen a doubling of their customer base and revenues.

Healthy entrepreneur

“Philips Foundation has been such an important partner from the start. The key advice was to focus on one to two countries first. Let the model really work in one country and scale from there. Now in Uganda and Kenya we have a model that is proven to be successful,” Tosca Terra Business Development Manager at Healthy Entrepreneurs, said. ‘Without that, we might have grown too big too quickly and we might not be where we are today.”

 

The whole Doctors at Distance pilot was supported by technical expertise provided by Philips employees. “We’re a small team, but Philips, on a voluntary basis, built a dashboard to monitor the progress and a model to get additional funding to expand this work.”

 

Looking to the future, Healthy Entrepreneurs sees a lot of opportunities. The organization never saw itself as an employment company but suddenly became one of the biggest employers in Uganda with 3,000 employees, many of whom are women.

 

“Next year we’ll start replicating the model in almost all of Uganda. Finding entrepreneurs or organizations interested in replicating our model and offering our technical expertise, supply chain referrals, and training.”

The goal is to scale up the Healthy Entrepreneurs model across Uganda and build a business that is financially sustainable, ultimately leading to more than 10,000 newly trained health caretakers, offering access to care for more than 20,000 people per day.

 

That is 10,000 extra health providers who provide quality care to those who normally do not have that kind of access. These trained healthcare providers will see and treat patients on a daily basis, build new healthcare communities and transform primary health ecosystems from within.

 

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Click here to learn more about Healthy Entrepreneurs.

Click here to learn more about our partner Ashoka.

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