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#WhatNow: What did healthcare learn from the pandemic?

#WhatNow: What did healthcare learn from the pandemic?
COVID-19 was a real test for healthcare systems around the world.

#WhatNow is a biweekly show on WAYA that tries to make sense of what is happening in the world. We follow how people’s lives and businesses are affected by current events, advancement in technology, and global politics. The show hosts different stakeholders from the entrepreneurship ecosystem and industry leaders to help answer some of the most pressing questions on people’s minds. 

Every episode is dedicated to a particular market or sector. Following the ongoing fight between Egyptian private hospitals, the government, and patients, there couldn’t be a better time to ask healthcare leaders “what now?”

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#COVID19 was a real test for healthcare systems around the world. As private hospitals, the government, and patients face immense challenges while battling this pandemic, there’s no better time to ask healthcare leaders #WhatNow? In the third episode, @leenaeldeeb explores the current status of healthcare systems, how we could have better prepared for this crisis, and what it takes to build an ideal healthcare system moving forward. Amir Barsoum, Endeavor Entrepreneur and CEO, Vezeeta | (@amirbarsoum, @vezeeta) Ayman Sabae, CEO, Shamseya Mairose Doss,COO, Dawi Clinics | (@mairosed, @dawiclinics) Amr El-Tayeb, Endeavor Entrepreneur and CEO, Smart Medical Services Special thanks to @endeavoreg for supporting us in creating this episode.

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Pricing medical services

Last week, families of patients resorted to social media to complain about the soaring prices of hospital stays for coronavirus cases. One can pay up to EGP 10,000 per day in ICU. The Ministry of Health put a cap on the prices. One day in isolation at a private hospital will range from EGP 1,500 to 3,000.

Whereas in ICUs, it will cost EGP 5,000 to 7,000 per day, and patients on ventilators will pay EGP 7,500 to 10,000. According to a document sent to Al-Ahram, the prices cover hospital services, medical supplies, doctors’ fees, accommodation, and testing. In response, represented by the Federation of Egyptian Industries, private hospitals decided to stop admitting coronavirus cases altogether until their demands are met.

According to El-Borssa, they appealed to the government to readjust the pricing so that the cost per day for the patient in isolation would be EGP 18,000 for the first category, EGP 11,000 for the second category, and EGP 7,000 for the third. While the price of “health” ranges between 1500 and 3000 pounds. Whereas the pricing for the ICU would start at EGP 10,000 for the third category, EGP 18,000 for the second, and EGP 25,000 for the third.

Talking about exactly that, Ayman Sabae, the CEO of a health-tech startup called “Shamseya” tells us that the core of the problem lies in the traditional method of pricing medical services in Egypt.

 Intensive care beds need to be resorted to as a last resort and only for a limited time, following protocols and a costing method that does not reward extended hospital stays. Financial incentives need to be rewarding clinical outcomes, for improving patient conditions, not for how much time those patients have spent in hospital beds.Ayman Sabae, CEO, Shamseya

Sabae, who was also responsible for the “Right to Health” file at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), describes this time as an open invitation for healthcare institutions to innovate, resort to partnerships and adopt different costing and service delivery arrangements. This has to start with trained and equipped primary care physicians, home follow-up arrangements and continuous patient support even at home.

We have to have intermediate care options that should be extended, telemedicine follow-up and peer-consultation platforms should be heavily used to cover the whole country in an equitable way.

Moving to a smaller scale, Mairose Doss, the COO of Dawi Clinics, explains that what makes them thrive financially is economics of scale. Dawi Clinics has a spread of 10 tech-enabled specialized clinics across Cairo and the Delta.

The pandemic has definitely cast a light on weaklings in the healthcare service industry, Doss agrees. Dawi Clinics took this as an opportunity to launch remote services such as tele-consultations, video consultations, to be available for their patients.

We appreciate the fact that we are strong on technology, our digital records have really helped us maintain service quality that we provide and I think that if any changes were to affect the whole industry it would definitely be that more organizations will look towards technology in a different way.Mairose Doss, COO, Dawi Clinics

Can tech provide what healthcare fell short of?

Shifting towards value-based care is, I think, one of the major keys, if we go through automation, real-time data collection, real-time data intelligence, we’ll be able to process the value extracted out of every medical transaction.Amr El-Tayeb, CEO, Smart Medical Services

So far, COVID-19 accounts for more than 300,000 deaths; hundreds of which are frontline doctors. In Egypt, 19 doctors had so far died from the virus and more than 350 others had been infected.

Would it have been different if tech was involved more? Probably – at least that is what the Chinese example showed us. Hiring staff robots could be a bit of a stretch when talking about Egyptian hospitals. But what about simpler and more affordable AI tools?

Investment in technology is not a choice, is not a luxury, it’s not for those who are super progressive, and outward looking, it’s actually the bread and the butter of the industry because we’re not living in the same world we used to live in.Amir Barsoum, CEO, Vezeeta

If you see something out of place or would like to contribute to this story, check out our Ethics and Policy section.