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3 Business innovations for better health

From Virgin
By: Ashoka

In this guest people and planet blog post, Ashoka changemaker Felicity McLean, gives the top three innovations that are benefitting both health ans business…

Three promising trends in innovation stand to bring health services within reach of patients that have traditionally struggled to access care. But these trends aren’t about new drugs or scientific discoveries—instead, they’re being driven by innovators who are employing creative business models to deliver heath services like never before.

1. Trend: Patient-controlled Data Sharing

Innovators are leveraging information technology to develop new tools that enable patients to manage their own health records. Their business models often make services free for patients while charging a fee to health providers and researchers.

Model for Change: Registries for ALL (Reg4ALL)

Reg4All is an online platform that helps patients with rare diseases sign up for potentially life-saving clinical trials. While most health registries are limited to a single disease, Reg4ALL is the first cross-disease registry—a one-stop shop for both patients and researchers. With the Reg4ALL platform, patients can control what health data they share, while researchers are charged a fee for access to the database. Reg4ALL hopes that this model will not only help researchers achieve breakthroughs faster, but also allow patients to have a greater influence on research priorities.

2. Trend: Leveraging Economies of Scale to Serve Low-Income Patients

Health providers serving low-income populations often face the constant challenge of scarce resources and a lack of capacity to fulfill the demand for care. However, achieving economies of scale through innovative business models can make health care more affordable and accessible.

Model for Change: Sarrell Dental

Sarrell Dental is Alabama’s only nonprofit dental clinic and also one of the most successful dental clinics in the state, Sarrell Dental has built a thriving chain of 14 dental offices that primarily serve children on Medicaid, something most dental clinics wouldn’t dream of doing. Remarkably, the nonprofit is completely self-sustaining without donor support. Sarrell’s secret? Smart business principles combined with a strong social mission. Sarrell Dental goes out of its way to meet the unique needs of Medicaid patients, and economies of scale lower supply and equipment costs. Its business model also incorporates top-notch business talent and a strong community outreach program.

3. Trend: Community Members as Door-to-Door Health Providers

Innovators are increasingly tapping community health workers to make health services available in places where there are no hospitals or doctors. In developing countries, community health workers are community members that are trained to perform basic health services. In remote regions, they are often the only lifelines to medical care.

Model for Change: Sucre Blue

One organization, Sucre Blue is training and employing women in rural villages in Bangladesh to become community health workers that specialize in diabetes screening and management. The villages where they work are located long distances from the nearest hospital or pharmacy. But because the women have personal experience treating a diabetic in their households—or are even diabetics themselves—they are able to counsel patients in their communities on managing the disease. As community health workers, they go door-to-door offering screening services and are incentivized by the profit they make from selling blood glucose strips at discounted rates.

Do these gamechanging business models have what it takes to transform health systems in your part of the world?

Reg4ALL, Sarrell Dental, and Sucre Blue were selected as winners of the Transforming Health Systems: Gamechanging Business Models competition, launched by Ashoka Changemakers and Boehringer Ingelheim.

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