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Addressing healthcare disparities through intermediation

02 May 2024 Teshlin Akaloo, Managing Director at NetcarePlus

In South Africa, the persistent disparities in healthcare access and quality continue to pose significant challenges for underserved populations.

These disparities are deeply entrenched in multifaceted social, economic, and systemic factors, necessitating innovative approaches to bridge the gaps and drive positive change.

The department of health has, over time, remarked that inequality remains the biggest challenge to the health system, and it is threatening the sustainability of health care for everyone in the country.[1]

Amid these challenges, healthcare intermediaries emerge as pivotal players in facilitating access to quality care and advocating for systemic reforms.

One of the primary ways intermediaries can contribute is by facilitating connections between clients and the appropriate resources, products, and services tailored to their specific needs. By ensuring timely access to necessary care, intermediaries can play a vital role in mitigating healthcare disparities and enhancing health outcomes across diverse communities.

Consider a scenario where Intermediary A, a healthcare benefits management company, partners with Company B, a small business, to improve access to healthcare services for their employees in South Africa.

Company B understand the importance of providing comprehensive healthcare benefits to attract and retain talented employees. However, they face challenges in navigating the complex landscape of healthcare services and finding affordable options for their workforce.

Recognising this need, Intermediary A steps in to bridge the gap between Company B and healthcare service providers. Intermediary A conducts a thorough analysis of the healthcare needs of the employees and the budget constraints of Company B. Based on this assessment, Intermediary A negotiates contracts with a network of healthcare providers to offer discounted rates for medical services, consultations, and treatments.

Moreover, intermediaries wield influence in advocating for policy changes aimed at addressing the root causes of healthcare disparities. In South Africa, this could involve supporting initiatives to expand insurance coverage and bolstering healthcare infrastructure in underserved areas, thereby fostering a more inclusive and accessible healthcare landscape.

In addition to their advocacy role, intermediaries serve as valuable sources of education and empowerment for marginalised communities. By disseminating information about healthcare options and resources, intermediaries empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health and navigate the intricate healthcare system effectively. This educational outreach not only fosters health literacy but also promotes self-advocacy among disadvantaged populations.

Collaborative efforts among stakeholders, including intermediaries, are essential to drive sustainable change and address healthcare disparities comprehensively. By leveraging collective resources, expertise, and partnerships, we can forge a path towards a more equitable healthcare system in South Africa. This collaborative approach underscores the importance of collective action in creating lasting impact and fostering inclusive healthcare for all.

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