Dr. Youssef El Azouzi, the most recent winner of Qatar Foundation’s innovation TV shown Stars of Science, on why incentivizing the treatment and care of coronavirus patients may ease the strain on global healthcare systems.
At Africa’s balcony looking onto Europe from Tangier, Morocco, the mountains of Spain in the near distance still preserve their tempting and luring heights to sub-Saharan migrants, who wait for the slightest possible chance to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. However, they have also started to trigger a spine-chilling fear among Tangier residents as an invasion takes a foothold in coronavirus-ravaged Spain.
This health crisis could open a new chapter in the way we approach collaborative frameworks. and incentivize partnerships between the public and private healthcare sectors.
Coronavirus, the “enemy of humanity”, has become a catchy tagline for many pundits not only in the medical field, but also in various financial sectors around the world. But rather than viewing the current chaos in the markets as an unstoppable Armageddon, this health crisis could open a new chapter in the way we approach collaborative frameworks. and incentivize partnerships between the public and private healthcare sectors.
As US President Donald Trump pushes for a $2 trillion, open-ended fiscal stimulus package across the pond, would it not be more sensible for health officials around the world to consider motivating private hospitals and healthcare providers to accept the transfer of coronavirus patients from overwhelmed public hospitals? Could it be that a promise of future tax reductions for private hospitals that currently care for COVID-19 patients would fuel assistance to public healthcare in its time of desperate need?
Such a strategy may actually be a way out, although it should be noted that such a setup could only work during acute health crises such as an epidemic. It would not be sustainable on a long-term, protracted basis. During a pandemic scenario, it is conceivable that various groups of private hospitals could first lobby amongst each other to reach a consensus regarding the average cost of care for each COVID-19 patient according to age group.
Subsequently, each group representative would approach its respective government health ministry and submit a proposal on a future tax reduction that would see the private healthcare sector rewarded in the future with a baseline profit per COVID-19 patient accepted during this time of need. An additional bonus tax reduction could also be awarded, depending on the clinical outcome of each patient according to his or her respective age group.
Such an arrangement would alleviate the intolerable strain on public hospitals at present and dilute governments’ financial losses caused by this crisis over a more prolonged period of time, better managing them through various state-led initiatives and mechanisms.
By incentivizing treatment and care of coronavirus victims, we might actually be able to climb out of this situation
Under a fresh lockdown in Morocco and other countries across the globe, private hospitals are incurring heavy losses just as other businesses suffer due to lack of movement and activity. Much of the revenue stream generated by private healthcare providers comes from non-urgent surgical procedures that are relatively time-tolerant such as many lumbar hernia and varicose vein operations. So it is reasonable to assume that it would be in the interest of both the government and private healthcare providers to enter such a credit-based system.
If profitable enough, it could see investors from an abandoned economic sector funnel big-time investment into various private healthcare institutions, and therefore expand operations in order to treat as many COVID-19 patients as possible and profit from future tax reductions for every COVID-19 accepted during this outbreak. The wave of investment triggered by this scheme may lead to a private hospital’s acquisition of different medical supplies, such as ventilators and sterilization equipment, needed to treat transferred patients. By incentivizing treatment and care of coronavirus victims, we might actually be able to climb out of this situation.
But private hospitals may not be the only private entities that can take part in this strategy. Hotels – which have suffered a major setback with the drop in domestic and international travel. and therefore tourism – may also be able to assist in providing extra beds for high numbers of patients needing hospitalization under a similar future-tax-reduction arrangement with government bodies.
Transforming hotels into temporary places of care and quarantine, where private hospital teams can expand operations, may form the basis of a symbiotic, trilateral relationship between governments, private hospitals and hotels
Transforming hotels into temporary places of care and quarantine, where private hospital teams can expand operations, may form the basis of a symbiotic, trilateral relationship between governments, private hospitals and hotels. National health systems that incorporate such a form of business-driven partnership between the public and private sectors during acute health crises may be better positioned to mobilize funds and secure much-needed medical equipment, as opposed to their counterparts in other nations. Focused private investment would lead to higher efficiency and a more robust consumer power, compared to national systems that rely solely on more bureaucratic government initiatives to procure medical supplies.
As the sun sinks into the Atlantic on Tangier’s western horizon, another breeze of confusion and apprehension makes its way around the city’s silent boulevards and unpaved footpaths with an unanswered question lingering in the air. Can pandemic economics – pandenomics – be a way out of COVID-19?
Dr. Youssef El Azouzi is a medical doctor, and the Founder and CEO of AortoMedical LLC, a medtech startup focusing on the development of a minimally-invasive, maintenance-free and affordable device for treating congestive heart failure. He was named the winner of Season 11 of Stars of Science