On 10 March, Henley Business School Africa will present the first class in a progressive, brand-new course that addresses both the realities of Covid-19 and the accelerated disruption of the digital age - and provides a sustainable solution in the process.
The course, entitled Future-Proof Your Healthcare Practice is a six-week session of three-hour lectures between 4pm and 7pm every Wednesday, led by Dr Peter Cruse, a former chief of pathology at Groote Schuur and director of hospitals internationally, designed by Professor Martin Hall a former deputy vice chancellor at UCT, vice-chancellor of the university of Salford and emeritus dean of higher education development, and features world-class lecturers from the US, China, UK and South Africa, including Henley Africa’s own dean and director Jon Foster-Pedley. The course provides doctors a full year’s worth of CPD points. To contribute towards supporting Covid healthcare, Henley is offering the programme at a 40% discount during the pandemic.
“Until March last year, tele-medicine was not really permitted by regulators in South Africa,” explains Cruse. “But then came Covid-19 and the HPCSA quickly adapted to allow limited telepractice. People became far more careful about what they do – especially when it came to going to doctors in hospitals and clinics.”
The pandemic forced a rethink among health regulators, health insurers and medical professionals to adapt to the new circumstances, at a time when the society was pivoting more and more online from working from home to contracting and shopping online. Telemedicine has now been permitted in this country – and health insurers have recognised it as a legitimate form of medical service that can be claimed for.
“The course that Henley Africa has designed recognises all these changes and embraces the opportunities that now arise; developing a future-fit business model, pivoting your practice, where you keep the old one but develop a new one by adding to your repertoire the ability to communicate online or over the telephone, by email or by video.”
The key stressors for healthcare where failures occurred during the pandemic, says Cruse, have not been in the level of clinical service and quality medical care, but rather in the non-clinical ‘back office’ issues like mobilising increased staffing, sourcing ventilators and the ordering of sufficient PPE.
“What Henley Africa is going to do through this Future-Proof Your Healthcare Practice course is to bring the clinical and the operational parts of two in sync with one another.”
Digitising healthcare isn’t about private or public practice, says Cruse, it’s about practice in general and as such equally applicable to either sector. An immediate benefit will be allowing patients better access to virtual appointments, quick online clinical consultations, repeat prescriptions and referrals to specialists or hospitals.
For Hall, as the learning architect, the course is both profoundly important and happening exactly at the right time.
“The old model of the GP as the key point of patient connection has been stripped away beyond belief. The National Health Service in the UK estimates that your allocated time with your GP is now eight minutes, effectively your GP is triaging you into secondary and tertiary health care, rather than actually providing you with any serious diagnosis.”
The South African experience, he says, is very similar to that of the UK and the US where only 20% of the population accesses private healthcare; the balance of the population has to depend on public healthcare. Health premiums are going up for those who have health insurance, rendering it increasingly expensive, while those who do not have health insurance face losing entire days of their lives to see doctors in the public sector who are seriously overburdened, further impacting their job prospects and their ability to earn a daily wage, if they fall sick.
“Telepractice is a way to fundamentally rethinking clinical pathways – to the benefit of everyone,” says Hall, starting with doing away from the need to go to the GP at a time that suits the health professional, rather than the patient – only to sit in the waiting room before being referred to a specialist.
“It’s a very inefficient way of doing things. It’s also very difficult for your health information to be shared between medical professionals. You shouldn’t have to have repeated blood tests done for instance.
“This course is an opportunity to fundamentally rethink how we deliver healthcare in an effective and more appropriate way that can actually provide a better clinical service and a more preventative service in general.
“We have the highest rate of income inequality in the world and this means that a lot of people are specifically excluded from the healthcare they need, which perpetuates the vicious cycle. Telepractice becomes a very powerful way of effectively intervening in this cycle of economic exclusion and inequality.”
In designing the course, Hall says it has been vitally important to ensure that every aspect of it complies with regulatory guidelines and is based on good practice, underpinned by appropriate oversight, especially where it comes to patient confidentiality and data protection. The course will be presented in a combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning, with the live sessions each week underpinned by the students’ pre-study beforehand.
“It’s important to make the best use of both sessions,” says Hall. “One of the worst things you can do in a live session is just put up your PowerPoint slides, that’s a waste of time. The live session is a time for discussion – and learning.”
Discovery Health, one of the biggest health insurance companies on the continent, is very excited about this and is actively encouraging doctors to enrol.
“We have been working for the last three or four years to help doctors transition to the world of virtual healthcare to provide members of the medical schemes we administer with the very best, world class, care, but what Covid-19 has done is dramatically accelerate this process,” says Discovery’s chief medical officer, Dr Maurice Goodman.
“We have seen an exponential uptake among doctors and patients,” he says, ascribing this to the convenience of telemedicine but also concerns about personal health safety.
For Cruse, Future-Proof Your Healthcare Practice is the closing of a circle that first began when he decided to do his MBA 20 years ago at UCT’s Graduate School of Business, Foster-Pedley was his mentor as the executive MBA programme director.
“My MBA thesis was on re-inventing anatomical pathology as a digital online remote consultation. It was about the digitalisation and virtualisation of images and replacing the optical microscope with the computer, because I had recognised the need for medicine, and especially my own practice to change with changes in technology. 20 years later Jon phoned me and said, ‘here’s your chance to finish what you started’. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Foster-Pedley is delighted at this latest collaboration by the multiple award-winning business school.
“We’ve prided ourselves throughout on teaching people the necessary tools to make sense and indeed to flourish in a volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous situation. The pandemic is all this and more, it’s brought us face to face with a diverse range of legacy problems in this country especially as well as being the greatest disruptor anyone of us could ever have imagined.
“Future-Proof Your Health Care Practice is about finding sustainable solutions for our frontline heroes in the medical world and providing a strategic pathway for them to build their healthcare practices in the private and public sector while reducing one of the key metrics in the basket of inequality that continues to shame and hold us all back, in South Africa.”
- If you would like to know more about this ground-breaking programme, please contact Wilma de Souza at az.ca.asyelneh@DamliW.