The number of hospital beds available for every 1000 people across emerging markets is under 1.5 – less than half of the developed economies’ average of 4.9, resulting in a staggering shortage of care. Even worse, the number of physicians in Sub Saharan Africa per 1000 people is only 0.2 compared to 3.7 for the EU. Clearly, the healthcare inclusion gap between emerging markets and developed economies is a factor of multiples, not increments, begging the question: is it even conceivable to provide healthcare for the billions of people in emerging markets?
Too often, we read that it is difficult to access or too expensive and unprofitable to serve the middle and bottom parts of the global population pyramids. But is that true? The lack of healthcare access and inclusion is reminiscent of the issues raised around the lack of financial inclusion in these markets in the early 2000s. Just as building more banks was not the solution to ‘banking the unbanked’, building more hospitals and medical centers will not be the solution to closing the healthcare inclusion gap. So what lessons could healthtech learn from the fintech experience in order to democratize access and affordability to healthcare?