Tapping into new technologies and advocating universal access to healthcare across Malawi, MedHealth continues to help build a better, brighter future for the country
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Callam Waller
It was on this day that the small, landlocked Southern African nation launched a National Health Policy for the first time, aimed at improving the health status of all Malawians and taking steps towards the attainment of universal health coverage.
Interestingly, Africa Outlook last spoke with MedHealth just two weeks prior to this announcement – one of the country’s leading medical schemes and an organisation that represents the optimism of the entire country surrounding the September 14 unveiling.
“In the document, there is a proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme which has excited all Malawians,” its COO Dr. Macfenton Shariff affirms.
“The policy has come at a time when medical schemes in Malawi have themselves come up with a Draft Constitution of Association of Healthcare Funders of Malawi (AFHM), one of the objectives of which is to represent healthcare stakeholders in supporting or opposing proposed legislation.
“We hope to play a role in collaborating with the Government of Malawi and Ministry of Health and Population in achieving the expected health delivery in numerous areas, not just national health insurance and universal health coverage, but equally strengthening the health system and promoting social compact agreements for public-private sector collaboration.”
And that is exactly what the healthcare environment in Malawi is becoming – collaborative, transparent and progressive.
The backdrop of the National Health Policy and AFHM is not the only cause for celebration at MedHealth right now, however.
During the course of the past year, the business successfully realised many of its sales, marketing, finance, administrative and operational goals, including the implementation of its Health Information Platform (HIP) – a medical administrative solution acquired from South Africa.
“HIP has enabled a more superior management and administration of the MedHealth fund with its enhanced service levels to members and all stakeholders,” Shariff explains.
“With it we have managed, among other things, to achieve full audit trails, real-time, centralised enquiries, somehow maintain a relatively lowered administration and IT costs, and speed up information delivery and speedy query resolution.”
A staffing restructure has also occurred in accordance with HIP, as well as greater emphasis having been placed on the improvement of operational efficiency.
“On top of this, there has been a decentralisation of membership management at a satellite office, enabling us to better cater for clients in the southern regions of Malawi. And we’re in the process of adopting a Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA) policy as part of our cost reduction programmes,” Shariff adds.
These efforts echo similar strides taken by MedHealth in previous years, the company still driven by proactivity and a willingness to embrace emerging global trends.
Technology adoption, for example, is a field that the medical scheme is spearheading in a national sense, HIP being just one of a multitude of recent focus areas.
“As the medical scheme and health sector go through a technological revolution, we found it imperative to align ourselves with modern advancements that combine industry best practice and thought leadership technology with features that deliver high levels of efficiency, sustained consistency and good governance in all areas of management, security, member, provider, compliance, product, content management, finance, claims, case management, and communications modules,” Shariff reveals.
In the case of FWA, the organisation is developing tools for use in detection, for example. Meanwhile, in 2020, it plans to embark on the launch of an electronic data interface, transferring the format of its submission claims from paper to digital.
Not only will such a transition further eliminate costs, it will simultaneously reduce the amount of time and number of resources spent on the claims processing cycle, freeing up the medical scheme’s administrative staff to pursue alternative initiatives.
“Overall, we’re experiencing improved efficiency and reduced expenses across the board,” Shariff adds.
At this point, the Chief Operations Officer once again points to the role of his staff in helping to maintain the upward trajectory of the medical scheme, reiterating that they are crucial to the company’s ongoing success.
The relationship between staff and enterprise is not a one-way street, however. Contributions are recognised and rewarded regularly.
“Admiration of long serving employees, part of MedHealth’s conditions of service, is practiced to award loyal members as a way of motivation and retention,” Shariff affirms.
“A number of staff members are also provided with the opportunity to go to both local and international training institutions of higher learning to hone their skills in health risk management, supervision and medical schemes administration – part of our pursuit of housing a world class workforce.”
It is because of these strategies and the excellence of the MedHealth team that the business won a Service Excellence Award from the Chartered Institute of Customer Management in the Medical Scheme category in Malawi last year. Indeed, the firm has also been nominated for this same award in 2019.
But what of the relationships with and role of MedHealth’s esteemed suppliers?
These remain as fruitful as ever in the eyes of Shariff. “Our partners have and will continue to improve our health service delivery at all levels, helping us to uphold satisfaction among all stakeholders involved in the business,” he declares.
“From the sharing and usage of mobile apps and web portals and a willingness to negotiate on tariffs to the introduction of AHFM and the government’s willingness to collaborate with medical schemes in the areas of National Health Insurance, we’re grateful for the efforts of everyone involved with the organisation.”
Empowered by these partners, employees and technological innovations, continued growth is exactly what MedHealth can expect looking ahead.
Moving into 2020, the organisation aims to have its medical and administrative solution integrated fully and its FWA policy implemented by the year’s end.
And coupling this, new product developments will be rolled out that will further consolidate MedHealth’s position as a flagship of quality healthcare in Malawi.
“We will launch new innovations for the benefit of our members as we strive to be the ultimate healthcare solution at affordable and cost-effective rates,” Shariff affirms.
It is arguably the Chief Operations Officer’s opening statements that provide the greatest source of excitement for the coming year, however, MedHealth poised to play a critical role in the country’s increasingly cooperative, progressive medical field.
Shariff concludes, reiterating this optimism: “We hope that the implementation of National Health Insurance should provide financial risk protection to all Malawians, achieving sustainable and affordable universal access to quality healthcare services.
“We also hope that the Medical Schemes Bill will be passed in parliament in the next year, and that full collaboration between the AHFM, Government of Malawi and other stakeholders bears many fruits for