Replicating Innovative Models: Reflections from a national event in the Philippines (part 1 of 4)

Editor's note: This blog post is the first in a series of posts about the Development Policy Research Month that CHMI partner the Philippines Institute of Development Studies held in Manila during September 2013. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to learn more about take-aways from the event! 

As a health system researcher from the Philippines, I had witnessed the plight of many poor communities in accessing healthcare. But on the positive side, I have also seen inspiring model communities that were able to make healthcare accessible. What make these communities or institutions successful are the espousal of innovative business solutions to solve the problems of healthcare inaccessibility.

One aspect of my work at Philippine Institute for Development Studies, a think tank, is to document, analyze and facilitate the replication of innovative programs and products implemented by communities and institutions in the country. Our team also attempts to analyze how global healthcare models can fit in the local context.

Innovations are important instruments in making healthcare accessible. In developing countries like the Philippines, the call to funnel more resources in the system is not enough. Stakeholders should be pro-active in facilitating the replication of innovative models that have been proven to be effective and efficient.

However, replication of innovative programs and products is not an easy task. Like any other product, you need to understand different factors that explain why it is feasible or not to replicate.

In one of our national forum on health market innovations, which was attended by different stakeholders last September 17, an interesting question of one of our discussants was raised — Who is responsible for replicating innovative healthcare models?  This question is crucial for researchers like me working in a developing country where health market innovations are badly needed. In a conventional product, this can be easily answered by linear business concepts. However, if the program or product has a social and equity goal, it becomes a bit tricky.

Parallel roles of different sectors

To facilitate the replication of innovative programs or products with a market niche towards the poor and vulnerable, there is a need for synergistic and parallel actions of government institutions, private sector and academia.  Without these three stakeholders, everything becomes shaky.

The role of government is critical. With its vast regulatory powers, it can nurture a suitable business environment for the private sector to participate in innovation development and implementation. Government should neither be restrictive nor bureaucratic. It should be innovation-friendly. Take the case of Southern Philippine Medical Center, an active hospital innovator. It has capitalized government laws and regulations in expanding their services and maximizing their profit using combination of innovative PPP models without sacrificing the equity goal of the hospital.  

At left, Department of Health Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa, reacting to the presentations of two innovators from India during Development Policy Month.

The role of private sector

On the other hand, private sector is crucial in innovation development and implementation. If you scan best practices in healthcare service delivery located in many developing countries, most of them are implemented and managed by the private sector. In India, many high-quality birthing clinics and primary care chains that cater to the poorest population are managed by the private sector.

Alternatively, government can also build partnerships with the private sector. The Institute had documented how government-owned hospitals in the Philippines like the National Kidney Transplant Institute, Southern Philippines Medical Center and La Union Medical Center were able to use PPPs to expand their services without compromising their equity goal.

Alex Villano Assistant Secretary General of League of Provinces in the PhilippinesAt right, Alex Villano Assistant Secretary General of League of Provinces in the Philippines shares his opinion on how Provinces can adopt innovative models.

The role of  ‘catalysts’

We call ourselves as ‘catalysts’. Our goal is to convince local government units and other institutions to embrace innovative business models or to further expand the coverage of these innovators so it can serve more people. 

Over the last two years, we have been going around the Philippines to search for best practices. We analyze their business models and document them so everyone will be informed that such promising best practices do exist. 

In our experience there has always been a gap between innovators and potential user, adopter or funder of innovative models. Catalysts serve as bridge between the two.