Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Brazil has over 200 million inhabitants, 75% of whom depend on the public health system because they cannot pay for private health treatments. However, the system is backlogged. Public investment in healthcare in Brazil is R $2 per capita (USD 0,80), meaning the country spends less on healthcare by percentage of GDP than most other countries in South America and Africa. With such a demand for healthcare, 94% of public hospitals have problems with overcrowding and most lack both doctors and high-tech equipment. Due to these shortages, wait time for treatment is one of the most glaring problems -- users face long queues, sometimes waiting months or even years for non-emergency surgeries.
Another problem is the mismatch between public funding and actual needs. Most of the public investment in healthcare is allocated to complex health issues, while 80% of the population's actual health problems are basic. Thus, the treatment of non-urgent cases in emergency departments makes the system even more inefficient due to lack of basic healthcare facilities. This is exacerbated by the lack of decent screening and diagnosis of the patients’ conditions. Overall, the system is structured with a focus on disease rather than on wellness.
The private system, on the other hand, is inaccessible to all but small portion of the population, due to its high cost. Qualified doctors charge high prices, and as a result serve only 15% of the population. Physicians themselves are interested in serving low-income patients for free or reduced cost, but are not able to as there is no channel to facilitate this process. Doctors would need to go outside of their private practice in order to treat the patients who need it most, which is resource intensive. What’s more, they have no infrastructure to source the patients who need care.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
The Brazilian public health system is known for its inefficiency, due to the high demand for health care and lack of public infrastructure to meet it. In São Paulo alone, the waiting list for public healthcare in 2014 has approximately 600,000 people. Meanwhile the private system is not even an option for most Brazilians because the cost is so high. João Paulo Ribeiro, a gerontologist who has always been concerned with treating low-income individuals, noticed this demand for healthcare and realized that many private doctors would be willing to donate their time to assist those needing care if presented with the appropriate tool. Thus, João Paulo created Horas da Vida (Hours of Life), a simple solution that matches doctors and low income patients – to groups otherwise unlikely to meet -- to fulfill the unmet need for healthcare access and provide an outlet to serve low income populations.
The Hours of Life Institute is an online platform that connects qualified private practitioners with low-income individuals in need of free health care. Structured in its partnerships, Hours of Life engages actors across various sectors to transform access to health. On the service provider side, João has built a network of doctors that are willing to donate hours, tapping into their intrinsic desire to make a change in society. His partnerships also involve other services, such as laboratory exams and free eyeglasses and João is in the process of establishing a partnership with the public system to attend to the more complex cases.
On the patient side, João is partnering with credible civil society organizations whose beneficiaries require health care, ensuring that the patient really needs treatment by enabling social and medical screening. Through his low cost and easily scalable platform, João plans to expand his initiative to all 400,000 doctors in Brazil, and its millions of low-income residents who could not otherwise access their services.