Vouchers for health: Conference finished on a high note
USAID-India, KfW, Packard Foundation, India Ministry of Health, and PSP-One put on a conference in Gurgaon outside of New Delhi this past week to discuss strategies and applications of “Vouchers for Health” [agenda PDF]. It is part of a larger ongoing dialog on the role of private sector players and demand-side financing to improve health care delivery in low-income countries.
Although I was there to present on the evaluation of the Uganda voucher project, it was a great opportunity to meet some very interesting people. Dr. Utpal Ray, for instance, is the chairman of Track 4Infotec a moderately large IT firm that supplies the data backend for 50+ insurance companies out of West Bengal. His system includes real-time data reporting from handheld, laptop and desktop platforms at partnered hospitals and clinics to track patient care and outcomes in electronic medical records (EMRs). His company currently has 1.3 million patient records with expectations for 3 million by 2009. Dr. Amarjit Singh was an impressive speaker from Gujarat, where under his leadership as Health Commissioner, access to maternal health services has been dramatically improving and not surprisingly the preliminary data suggest that maternal deaths are on the decline. His management style can best be described as pragmatic and driven. Among other steps, his government health office began coordinating services with private OB-GYNs with a series of adverts in local papers. Although simple, the step was profound by signaling government’s intent to engage with the existing private sector healthcare capacity.