How the Online Platform economic model can solve most problems in the Nigeria health sector – Pharm. Afoke

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Since the advent of the internet, the way of doing things has seen a tremendous and drastic transformation.

Transmission of mail from person to person through mail carriers, used to take time and money but now electronic transfer of mail called: “electronic mail (email)” has solved the problem. Younger generations would not really appreciate the ease emailing has brought to mankind-since they didn’t experience the old fashion way of sending mail.

That is just an iota of the avalanche of transformation for the way we do things from regular task to highly business oriented task.

The internet has transformed so many sectors of human endeavor, from transportation, to communication to mass media. The Nigeria health sector would not be left behind.


Platform economy

The platform economy is simply defined as an economy of social and transactional activities that are carried out on the internet through online platforms.

Google came up with a centralized platform that ranks websites in accordance to how rich the site’s content is-making information easily sorted for by users. Wikipedia, the world’s encyclopedia also helped in information distribution-today people don’t have to stress themselves going to the library in search of information on any subject matter.

Then came the rise of E-commerce where Amazon, E bay , Alibaba, Jumia etc, has made it so easy for individual vendors to sell their items without necessarily owning a physical brick and mortar store, from anywhere in the world and customers can buy from a range of different products on the platform and their purchase can be delivered to them at their home.
The media has not been left behind; since YouTube came into the scene and has given many talented individuals the opportunity to showcase their talent without jostling for airtime in the traditional mainstream media.

We also started seeing the rise of the on demand service platforms were the likes of Uber, Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Upwork, Fiverr etc help to make various services readily available to consumers on demand.

The Common idea of all these online platforms is that, they connect consumers directly to the service provider or freelance agents without the consumers having to go to firms to get their needs satisfied, thereby breaking the monopoly that has been enjoyed by few multinational companies.

Freelance agents now has the chance to render their services strictly based on customers’ recommendations and reviews while being self employed and for the consumers; they are opened to so many options at a more affordable rate and standard service.

What is the industrial economy?

Industrial economy

The industrial economy is simply an economy dominated by firms, industries which are organizations that act as a meeting point for service providers and customers. For example hotels, supermarkets, factories, library and media houses etc. They dominate the offline market and do business in a fixed real estate property.

These firms play a major role on the quality and cost of service provided. The customer does business directly with the firm and not with the service provider (who in this case is called “employee”).

The current economic model adopted in Nigeria health sector.

Primary healthcare

The current model being practiced in the Nigeria health sector is the industrial economic business model. Where hospital, clinics, primary health centers, pharmacies are the meeting point for the patients and the various healthcare providers.
The government and wealthy business men in the private sector are saddled with the responsibility to provide the institutions that facilitates the healthcare business.
This model is flawed with so many issues and would no longer be sufficient for the rapidly growing Nigeria population and the shrinking medical workforce in the country.

The Industrial economy versus the Platform economy

In the Industrial economy, the customer and service provider are restricted to a real estate where the service provider gets the opportunity to serve only when they are employed by the firm or organization and the customer gets served by the organization.

This make services more expensive and less transparent for the customer since the organization controls both cost of service and quality of service.
The employee only does what they are mainly asked to do even when it might contravene their personal professional ethics.

The employee, is frustrated with the fact that; there are few organizations that can employ him, which increases competition and the popular “man know man” form of recruitment that has become a main practice in Nigeria. This mode of recruitment downplays getting employed strictly based on merit.

Also establishing such an organization can be very expensive. Government and the rich are usually the once that can afford starting such organizations and this have led to monopoly of the market of some sort.

For a young employee who would love to venture into entrepreneurship, getting capital to start business is cumbersome. Competing with the multinational organizations for a market share, can pose a very big hurdle.

The platform economy seeks to solve most of these problems. Now service providers/employee can subscribe to becoming freelance agents who can now independently connect with their customers.

Setting up an account, most times is free for the freelance agent on most of the platforms and they can fix their own cost in some cases or get commissions per customer attended to as against a monthly salary. With these funds freelancers can start a new business of their dream without looking for investors.

The freelance agent is also not restricted to 8-5pm work schedule since they can work anytime from anywhere in the world. Also the freelance agent can get positive reviews that can boost their reputation for new customers. On the long run, they can easily build customer base, so that when they raise money to start their business, they don’t have to go sourcing for customers.

On the other hand, customers charge for service becomes cheaper because the cost of real estate is not factored into the price of the service and they have variety of options to pick from with enough information through reviews for their prospective freelance agent.

The platform model would go a long way to solve the problems prevailing in the Nigeria health sector.

How can the Platform Economy impact the health sector?

The platform economy provides with the opportunity of medical freelancing. Where an online platform can offer patients, direct consultation with their favorite doctors, pharmacistand nurses. The healthcare provider, wanting to work as a medical freelancer, can register for free on the platform, upload their license and professional documents and they are verified by the platform operatives if they are qualified to practice as a medical professional and thereafter activated to attend to patients all over Nigeria via video conferencing, live chat, booking of live appointment.

The platform can also provide an electronic prescription that can be created only when the doctor sign in to his account. The patient can get the prescription posted to their account and they can then send it to a pharmacy for purchase. This makes the all process of the medical journey seamless for the patients.

Benefits of the platform model for the Nigeria health sector

For the patient

  1. Patients have access to rich reviews and star ratings of the prospective medical freelancer they are to consult unlike in the traditional practice, were patients only meet the doctor or pharmacist that has been newly employed by the hospital. This can positively affect patient-doctor relations (which is very vital for the purpose of having good medical history on the part of the doctor for good treatment plan).
  2. The platform usually offers patients free storage for their medical and prescription history which is very relevant to aid their future doctor or pharmacist consultation.
  3. Maintaining a particular doctor or pharmacist for a long time would not be an exclusive luxury to the rich since the platform can give a quick access to your doctor or pharmacist from anywhere in Nigeria
  4. The patients can get to be in control of the medical journey just from the comfort of their phone.
  5. There is price transparency for patients to be able to do market survey.
  6. Since the process has been made simple, patients are encouraged to a more frequent routine checkup which can help them diagnose early stage of some chronic disease. With this knowledge they can easily adjust to a better lifestyle to prevent disease or deterioration of chronic diseases.

For the Medical freelancer

  1. They get to fix their consultation fee themselves.
  2. They can manage their patient consultation appointment from their dashboard. Most platforms provide the medical freelancer flexible tools they can use in managing appointments; for example they can adjust their consulting schedule weekly, working hours, time span for consultation, and alerts on consultation etc. This is usually done by a secretary that can incur more cost on salary.
  3. They can build their reputations from patient reviews.
  4. Medical freelancers can easily migrate from city to city and their online reputation does not change, they only have to change their city location on the platform and patients in their new city can see the positive reviews and reputation is easily built again.
  5. They are not restricted to patients in their city but all over the country.
  6. They can have access to clients medical and drug history that can help them when taking decisions on treatment plan
  7. They can choose to offer home service for their prospective patients.
  8. Some of the medical freelancing sites provide plug-in to social media pages. Where medical freelancers can engage their patients directly on social media and also have a large pool of audience to connect with.
  9. Some platforms can also connect medical freelancers to big health institutions.

The dawn of the platform economy is still at its early days. There is still so much to be covered like; care of the inpatient and emergency cases, which still can’t be covered yet by the platform model but soon there would be startups trying to solve such problem.

There is also the issue of regulations. Government and the various stack holders should spend time to study the dynamics of the model that they may come up with a robust frame work that would cover all possible aspect of this dynamic economic model. It would be wise that government works with most of the platform company since they have a wealth of experience in this sector.
We should not undermine the voting system that most of these platforms proffer in the form of reviews and star rating for medical freelancers.

This is another major way of regulation provided by the platform.
The developed and emerging economies all over the world are rapidly adopting this form of economic model to reduce unemployment.

Any country that is slow to catching up would be left behind since the world is becoming a global village. Nigerians might prefer to patronize freelancers outside the country and that can form a big outflow of cash from the Nigeria economy.
How do you see the future of work in the Nigeria health sector? Share your doubts and your optimism in the comment below lets discuss.

Pharm Afoke Akpomiemie is a medical technology enthusiast whose passion is to see most of the problems faced in Nigeria health sector solved with technology.

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