The MOOC course Entrepreneurship and Healthcare in Emerging Economies that I wrote about earlier is moving full steam. The discussion board is buzzing: it is amazing to see what happens when people from across the globe participate in a class. Take this link to see where course participants have enrolled from.
One interesting discussion is on the topic ‘institutional voids related to healthcare’ - deficiencies in the system that prevent users of healthcare services in developing countries from accessing these services – that originate in each of the course participants’ own countries. Course participants from tens of countries have talked about a wide range of institutional voids in their settings. I thought I’ll write a quick blurb about one such void here.
A common one, which we also highlighted in our videos is that of not being able to ascertain quality of the healthcare provider. Now, in a sense, this is an issue in the US as well. It’s hard for a lay consumer to really know how good a particular physician is.
But in developing countries, it’s harder for two reasons, at least I think. First, in the developed world, there is a functional regulation system that weeds out truly egregious behaviour (the press, for all its limitations, does fulfil its policing function to do so, and the regulators are quite vigilant); this is not the case in much of the developing world, where malfeasance can continue apace unchecked, preying on lack of information and relative illiteracy. Second, since trained physicians and surgeons are scarce, inevitably medical care is delivered by an array of personnel, many of whom are not fully trained physicians. The scale of the health need is too large to do otherwise. So this means that one has to have quality metrics that’s sensitive to this approach of breaking down the healthcare-delivery task into smaller pieces. As an entrepreneur, I’d say it is do-able, but it is not easy.