U.S. Small Business Innovating to Save Lives through Public Private Partnership

Mar 02 2018

Worldwide countries have committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) to end preventable maternal and newborn deaths by forging new and stronger partnerships with the private sector. The SDGs recognize that when governments and donors only focus on the public sector, they are fighting maternal and newborn mortality with one hand tied behind their back.

Engaging the private sector is critical for achieving and sustaining reductions in maternal and newborn mortality because it fosters competition to drive quality, respectful care; increases resources for health; and it improves the resilience of the health system overall. We can make an immediate impact by empowering women to demand quality care, and be the driving force behind where healthcare resources are spent. Yet many governments are confronted with the reality that the tools needed to successfully engage private healthcare providers are few and primarily built by and for wealthy countries.

Facing this challenge, Open Development, LLC—an economically-disadvantaged, women-owned, US small business—engaged with D-Tree International and Results for Development to design a cost-effective solution to support public engagement of private providers that works in even the most resource constrained parts of the world. We leverage proven technologies to streamline and automate patient, provider, and payer transactions starting with one of the most complex, costly, and important health conditions that all families, communities and countries face — the maternal and newborn episode of care. Our concept was awarded one of only six seed grants from the 2016 Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge – a public private partnership between USAID, the Gates Foundation, Norad, Grand Challenges Canada, DfID, and KOICA.

We used the grant to demonstrate its feasibility by co-designing and testing the prototype in one of the more resource constrained countries in the world – Liberia. It is a country with one of the highest rates of maternal and newborn mortality, and where the recent Ebola crisis highlighted the need for a more resilient, diverse health system. It also is a country with an emerging private healthcare sector, eager to engage in the development of the Liberian economy.

Our solution disrupts traditional approaches for operationalizing public private partnership in the health sector, with a focus on the maternal and newborn episode of care, which is among the most harrowing, costly, and uncertain conditions a woman and her family will face. Our solution promotes women’s empowerment and continuity of care – allowing patients control over their own birth record and where to seek care — and improves the quality of care by supporting healthcare workers with e-decision support based on clinical guidelines and tying payment to adherence to those guidelines. At the same time, it streamlines and automates operational functions required in a health insurance scheme, like coding care and submitting a claim.

As the healthcare worker navigates the decision support and enters in the results of his/her questions and observations, test results, and services/drugs provided, this data is recorded for the patient, the provider, and the payer. As soon as the data gets synced to the payer’s system, it triggers an automatic payment based on pre-negotiated terms. There is no need for cumbersome claims processing, and the solution can track data, including time spent with the patient and trends in health conditions, signal the need for an audit, and lay the foundation for value- or performance-based payment schemes.

As a result of our work, USAID nominated Open Development to join more than 1,500 entrepreneurs, business executives and government officials at the recent 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India. This year, the theme focused on “Women First, Prosperity For All.” The 2017 GES was an opportunity to highlight the innovations and potential of women from around the world. Yet the challenge for women and girls is not only to be heard but also to be given the financing necessary to become entrepreneurs.

We were fortunate to be recipients of a 2016 Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge Seed Grant, and it meant we could translate our idea into reality. That is why it is important for the global community, with leadership from USAID and Administrator Green, to continue to expand the opportunities, like the Savings Lives at Birth Challenges and GES, which allow small businesses and women and girls to bring their innovations to light and demonstrate the impact of entrepreneurs to development.