Explain what the "innovation" is about, e.g., is it the idea and/or the model you use to accomplish the idea, or your understanding of the target population, etc.?
Access Afya is redefining the healthcare experience at the base of the pyramid through a community based mini-clinic model. There are many innovations in new diagnostics, products, and apps but there is a bottleneck getting these to mass markets. We are taking a completely different approach to healthcare by creating clinics in vulnerable populations, staffing them with qualified health professionals, equipping them with the latest health technologies and diagnostics, and linking to a larger referral network to handle advanced health needs.
The model is a private sector solution for poor markets, charging small fees for each service. Patients are offered a variety of health financing options to meet their small, irregular cash flows from pay-per-use products and services to bundled care packages to membership plans. We build on the existing community social infrastructure, through community health workers, savings groups, and schools, to promote our products and screen potential clients.
We are planning each element of the organization for scale, from recruitment and hiring criteria to training plans to clinical and operational protocols. Technology is the backbone of this vision, as all records are already managed electronically. Smart health systems will increase efficiency through saving space and reducing repetitive data collection, and improve outcomes through diagnostic protocols and treatment reminders. As we expand, small positive margins from each mini-clinic will contribute to operational overheads, making the model self-sustaining at scale.
Describe how your innovation model is distinct from any other organization in your field?
The status quo if you are sick and poor in Kenya is to either spend time and transit money to go to a public facility, where you then spend hours waiting for treatment, or to self-diagnose and purchase medication from an unregulated chemist. Chemists are rarely staffed by health professionals, nor do they have training or tests to give an accurate diagnosis. Charitable programs exist but cannot reach the millions living in poverty and are heavily subsidized.
Other health enterprises in Kenya such as do not target the ultra-poor, or they focus only on specific needs such as maternity or HIV/AIDS. We bring a holistic healthcare model directly to the doorsteps of the people who need it the most.
What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?
The business model fits into Ministry of Health strategy and goals, including increasing primary care, services for expectant mothers, public-private partnerships, and health technologies. Our partnership with the public sector, from licensing to reporting to receiving free supplies, makes the model more feasible and scalable. Nairobi is emerging as Africa’s Silicon Savannah, giving us many organizations and individuals to partner on tech innovations. Mobile penetration is high, meaning our text message communication strategies are feasible here. We also have strong local support networks, and a solid knowledge of our target market through our growing electronic database of our patients' demographics, symptoms, treatments and also process documents from the pilot.
How do you make sure you constantly innovate in light of (potential) external challenges, or your growth plan?
We currently have weekly all staff meetings to facilitate challenge and idea sharing. I have also engaged interns and external student groups to study our model, financials, interview previous patients, and provide feedback and recommendations.
I have been a contributor to global health networks, blogs, and conferences as well as frequently posting on our website. This demonstrates that I am ready and willing to share our ideas, progress, challenges, and solicit feedback and ideas from others. I have learned a lot from mentors and advisors, and believe that open, honest dialog about our model and challenges will keep us nimble and innovative. Social impact is the primary goal, and if the path to that goal is constantly changing our organization is prepared for that.