Entering the business of healthcare can be daunting. It’s a huge industry with a variety of sectors and challenges. Healthcare related businesses face all of the generic challenges of business, as well as certain legal, moral and ethical issues while pursuing growth and profitability. An area with the most potential and activity at present is primary healthcare (PHC).
This is the provision of basic care including preventative, curative and rehabilitative services, typically outside a hospital, with the aim of preventing and treating disease holistically and at an earlier stage, thereby reducing cost and complications.
Private providers are increasingly important in the provision of PHC in Africa, and help to relieve pressure on public services while improving the quality of PHC. They also help to facilitate broader socio-economic benefits of improvements in health.
5 Reasons to Consider Primary Healthcare as a Business
1. Size and growth potential
The growing middle class in Africa is increasing demand for higher quality healthcare services, and is able to pay for them. In South Africa, there are about 42 million uninsured individuals, about four million of whom are employed and regularly purchase (out-of-pocket) private PHC services. In addition, as the NHI is implemented, opportunities to become accredited private providers of PHC packages will arise with the potential customer-base comprising all uninsured individuals, irrespective of their affordability.
2. Global focus and policy shift
There is a movement to shift the focus of healthcare delivery from hospitals to the primary healthcare space, based on mounting evidence that PHC is the most cost-effective way of delivering healthcare and improving health. Investments are being made in innovation, funding, policy and legislation, and partnerships within this space are increasing, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs.
There is substantial scope for innovation and creativity in what appears to be a highly regulated sector. If you master the regulatory environment, you’re likely to become successful.
4. Lack of business focus
Healthcare professionals require highly advanced technical expertise and skills to provide care. However, this often means that they feel unable to impact the healthcare system on a broader scale because of limitations in their business and other skills. By combining business skills with sector experience, one can build a successful business.
The business side of healthcare is not the exclusive preserve of experienced professionals, and entrepreneurs are desperately needed to help create and drive the required innovations.
5. Potential for social impact
The social impact of healthcare cannot be over-emphasised. There are few more important factors in socio-economic development than improvements in health, and few better areas in which to invest if one seeks to improve it.
What are the practical steps required to enter this market? The lessons are based on our experience in healthcare, but apply to most entrepreneurial ventures.
1. Marry opportunity with passion
Find a niche in the healthcare sector that aligns with your passion and interests. This will get you through the tough times.
Your business idea is almost worthless without action and the ability to implement it.
3. Be strategic in your partnerships
If you do not have healthcare experience, find a partner who does. If you’re a healthcare professional find yourself a good business partner, but have a honeymoon period with a clearly defined ‘divorce’ agreement in case things go sour.
4. Know what you are offering and believe in it
Starting a business in healthcare is the same as starting a business in any other sector.
5. What need do you fulfill
To attract clients, your value offering must be clearly defined and you must be able to solve a problem or cater for a need. Understand who the clients are and how your business model works and fits into that.
Focus is an asset, but this does not mean forgetting the bigger picture and how your business fits into it.
There are many funding mechanisms available for the healthcare sector, but navigate them carefully. Joining an established SME and helping it grow is an option for attracting investment at an earlier stage. As in any relationship, do not forget to clearly define aspects of ownership, responsibility and roles in the business.
2. Prioritise resource use
Spend all your time and resources on finding clients and delivering a phenomenal service or product to them. Forget fancy phones or nice offices – ensure income is greater than expenses.
3. Research and mentorship
If you have trouble finding a niche, reach out to people in the industry. Invite healthcare executives for a coffee and ask them what service or product they need and if they would be prepared to pay for it. Get them to guide you as you prepare to sell or package your offering.
Attend functions, forums, events and follow up on every person you meet. Keep a record of every encounter so that you always find the right person, and use your networking to help other business people or entrepreneurs. One day they will repay you the kindness.
Learn the power of collaboration and co-operation: Share your knowledge and resources. The healthcare sector, particularly primary healthcare, is highly fragmented and it is through collaboration that synergy and efficiency is created, which improves services to patients, lowers costs and increases business opportunities and profits for companies.
PHC is a vast sector of businesses involved in the direct provision of care as well as delivering key services and products in support of providers:
- A variety of clinics
- Retirement homes
- Nursing agencies
- Occupational health
- Consultancy and software companies
Examples of Primary Healthcare Businesses
From bicycle-delivered medicines to delivering babies, see how entrepreneurs are tapping in to primary healthcare.
To your door medicine delivery
Started in 2013, Iyeza Express is the brain-child of young entrepreneur Sizwe Nzima, that sees chronic medications at government hospitals and clinics delivered to patients’ doors. Nzima realised the need for the delivery service from helping his grandparents. He now has approximately 250 clients who pay R10 per collection.
Delivering bundles of joy affordably
Jacaranda Health is a Kenya-based social enterprise that is a fully self-sustaining and scaleable chain of maternity clinics. These clinics provide high quality maternity and child-health services to poor urban woman at costs that are between 30% and 70% cheaper than other facilities in the country.
See more at www.jacarandahealth.org
Hello HealthCare was formed in 2007 by five entrepreneurs, including York Zucchi. The company offers integrated healthcare services by pulling together different private healthcare sectors to provide primary healthcare.