The Business of Medicine

During these past several years, it has become apparent that the healthcare system in Kenya has evolved and morphed from being the industry characterized as an honorable profession, served by selfless and benevolent institutions, to being an enormous, unprincipled, financially-driven industry, whose core objectives are selfish in nature and geared towards fulfillment of personal interests. The adoption of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and modern business models has escalated the ‘need for speed’ nature in healthcare systems in Kenya, since the production, the cost of healthcare, the salaries of the very same personnel, and not to mention the ever-so-rising inflation levels, depend on this prompt response. Granted, this quick reaction was paramount during the recent pandemic, when COVID-19 caused unparalleled stretch in Kenya’s healthcare system and even globally. Consequently, the then Jubilee government increased expenditure on the health sector by 35% to KES 103.1 billion in 2019/20, to help mitigate and combat the virus. The number of healthcare facilities rose from 13,700 in 2019 to 14,600 in 2020. Presently, the government’s response to the pandemic was undoubtedly warranted, but at what cost? It has been argued by several, credible sites that the pandemic itself was man-made, out to take advantage of global health sectors’ potential, to crush economies and unethically benefit from the outcomes.

Monetization of health care has long been a gradual process, evident from the increased drug costs, the decreasing reimbursements from insurance companies regarding risky illnesses and advertisement and promotional business models that are questionable in nature, seeking to benefit from customers’ overspending in drugs and medicines. Private medical institutions have particularly crafted their business models to accommodate offering service of patients who either have personal medical insurance or are willing to pay in cash, the total, quite extortionate amount. Rarely will you find the use of National Hospital Insurance Fund medical access given to the majority of people, demonstrating a disconnect between the private institutions and the government’s agenda of providing affordable healthcare through NHIF.

The insurance sector has also demonstrated monetization of the health sector. Ideally, patients who have been relentlessly remitting their medical premiums to cater for their medical needs should be allocated entirely, medical care from hospitals and other medical institutions, in the event that they need medical attention. Instead, this process tends to be frustrating in nature, prolonged and even more costly when insurance companies do not fully acknowledge the medical expenses to be taken care of as assured when the policyholder was first being advised to take the policy, with the false promise that the expenses would be fully settled.

Advertisement of medical care has also taken a questionable approach. A case whereby private institutions are now prompting consumers to buy more medical products and drugs, for them to stand a chance of winning flashy items such as cars, is obnoxiously unethical. Consequently, what this means is that consumers are outrightly encouraged to fall sick as often as they possibly can, for them to buy more drugs and medicines, to warrant their bleak chance of winning a car. The disregard of the virtues that the health sector should preferably possess has been the litmus test that signals the need for ethical intervention by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council and other relevant bodies.

Should the health sector still be run as a business? Yes. Undoubtedly, because the need for proper medical care at times stems from personal occurrences in health that have been distasteful and disappointing and there is a need for intervention and innovation, to offer suitable solutions in medical care. However, the grounding principles of medical practitioners and institutions should always demonstrate humanity and care, should be objective in offering ethical solutions and not out for-profit gain at the expense of moral standards. Regulatory bodies, in collaborative efforts with the government, should seek proper channels of education and mentorship of these standing virtues, administer stringent measures when it comes to medical product advertising and ultimately, champion for preventive habits from illnesses such as physical and mental wellness. It is clear that it’s no longer business as usual in the field of medicine.

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