Driven by the market, its customers and a commitment to service excellence, Health Partners is redefining private healthcare financing across Nigeria
Writer: Jonathan Dyble
Project Manager: Callam Waller
Amid growing economic maturity and increasingly favourable demographics, health insurance throughout Nigeria continues to thrive more and more each year.
With progressive development sweeping the West African nation on multiple fronts, some segments of society across the country have seen substantial improvement in their disposable income, a factor that has served to raise demand in private sector healthcare insurance.
This in mind, Oxford Economics has projected that spending on private healthcare insurance across the country will grow at a rate of around six percent per year to $530 million by 2021, up from the $400 million recorded in 2016.
A sector clearly on the up, one company poised to take advantage of the undoubted prosperity is Health Partners Ltd.
A firm built on two decades of experience in the Nigerian healthcare industry, Health Partners initially began as a health management company, acting as a key enabler of institutional restructuring, recruitment, human resources development and the sourcing of funds amongst a broad depth of industry players.
However, having seen some success from these beginnings, the Health Partners leadership took an executive decision to transform the company into a health maintenance organisation (HMO) in 2006, now providing managed healthcare insurance and services to many of Nigeria’s leading businesses.
“At that point, it was seven years on from the company’s inception and the team recognised that the business had to expand,” explains Dele Salami, the firm’s current Managing Director and CEO. “Since the transition, our revenue has grown 15-fold and our customer base that previously constituted around 2,000 people now includes more than 85,000 people.
“It’s really something we are very proud of.”
Having joined Health Partners in 2008 as Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer at the height of this crucial period, Salami immediately began to play a key role in helping to power many of the overriding changes, setting the agenda and outlining company strategy.
“Health Partners, as you would expect, was established by a team of doctors,” he explains, “and this was why I was brought on board.
“I’d spent much of my career in human capital management, business development and marketing, so I was tasked with helping to provide a group-wide progressive plan, a plan that was implemented from 2009 onwards.”
Largely overseeing the operational side of the business, the then ED/COO quickly identified the potential offered by the private sector of the healthcare insurance industry, a segment that quickly became a key focus of the business.
As a result, today the company’s portfolio is made up entirely of private sector clients that span a vast range of industries, encompassing anything from construction specialists to financial services players.
“Because of this specific focus we may look somewhat smaller than other healthcare insurance companies,” Salami adds. “However, it is this streamlined approach that allows us to gain maximum efficiency and value from our operations.
“For us, it’s all about quality, not quantity.”
This ethos filters down throughout Health Partners, allowing the firm to differentiate and remain a pioneer in what is a somewhat saturated market.
Salami continues: “We’ve been working with many of our customers for over 10 years, not only meeting their expectations but surpassing them.
“The success of businesses in our industry who focus on the public sector are subject to many external variables, things like administration changes. Ours on the other hand is largely dictated by our own service and subsequent reputation – something we’ve managed to establish in a positive light.
“Ultimately, it’s about treating the customer like a king,” Salami adds. “After all, we are in the business of caring for people.”
Providing the platform
This personal approach, evident in the firm’s esteemed customer-centric strategies, can equally be found in its employment and staff retention strategies.
With the intent of avoiding a high-staff turnover, Health Partners’ internal structure is very much geared towards providing its people with both opportunities and responsibilities, providing the perfect platform for both career-based and personal progression.
Salami reveals: “What do we do differently? We invest in our people and allow them to grow. It’s not always about money – people don’t stay in their job long-term because of money. It’s about valuing staff and encouraging them to take part in key decision-making activities through emphasising employee involvement.”
The results of this are clear to see, with approximately 20 percent of the firm’s current staff having remained with Health Partners since it became an HMO 12 years ago.
“We listen to our employees’ aspirations and goals,” Salami continues, “and try as best as we can to provide them with freedoms to achieve. Some of our workers, for example, want to attend school and so we give them the option of flexi-time so that they can do so.”
Further to this, the company invests heavily in both internal and external training programmes that even extends to sending promising individuals to business school. These things combined, Health Partners’ structure serves to ensure that its top-performing staff remain within the organisation, again helping to maximise operational efficiency and service excellence.
Today a Nigerian healthcare insurance stalwart, the company is keen to ensure that it maintains this status by remaining ahead of the curve and capitalising on industry growth moving forward.
To this end, the organisation has already begun placing emphasis on the importance of technology, having been investing in the implementation of a new information technology system that will serve to link buyers, hospitals and companies.
“Just look at Tesla,” Salami states. “They’re driving change in the automotive industry through the extensive use of new technologies. The healthcare industry, meanwhile, is moving at a similar pace, so equally we have to grow and adapt in line with technological development in order to excel.
“There are certain problems with this in Nigeria in the way of skill shortages, but we are actively addressing this through our training programmes and investments.”
Such challenges are not a new feat for Health Partners, again evident in the fact that 2019 will be an election year in Nigeria, something that Salami expects to create significant turbulence and economic uncertainty. However, remaining true to Health Partners’ unrivalled ethos and driven by its values, the Chief Exec is anticipating substantial improvement for the year ahead.
He concludes: “I’d have to say our main challenge for the coming months is adapting to the market as required and remaining flexible in the face of any of this.
“Doing so will allow us to continue to grow as we expect and bolster our margins by hopefully as much as 20 percent. However, even if we fall short of these ambitions, we’re nonetheless expecting to see improvement in our returns through the wider implementation of technology and continual expansion of our practices.”