Our Story: Building Clinical Capacity in Africa
LifeNet International (LN) seeks innovative solutions to everyday health challenges in Africa. We believe basic improvements in primary healthcare will considerably better the health outcomes of underserved communities, especially in rural locations. LN currently operates a conversion franchise network focused on improving the quality of medical care and clinic management as well as access to essential medications and equipment financing to build the capacity of local clinics and hospitals. We began in 2009 in Burundi piloting training and medicine interventions and established our program in early 2012. In one year, we expanded our partner network to include 40 clinics and hospitals, located in 13 provinces of Burundi, and representing about 50,000 patient visits per month. In 2013 we will expand the franchise to Uganda.
Our Capabilities: Medical & Technical Expertise in the Field
LN transfers technical expertise to local clinics through a conversion franchise focused on four core components of clinical operations: nurse training, clinic management training, pharmaceutical supply, and equipment loans.
Medical and Clinic Management Training
LN draws on the medical and business expertise of key expat field staff with a train-the-trainer approach. Our local nurse and business trainers deploy to train clinic staff on site monthly at each clinic. This strong field presence gives us a deep understanding of local realities and allows us to build the trust relationships necessary to effect changes in clinical practices.
Pharmaceutical Supply Chain
LN employs logistics and business savvy in operating a supply chain of essential medicines and provides an essential link from local wholesalers to rural clinics. Supplying medicines complements LN financial and pharmacy management training. LN’s next project will focus on linking local markets to regional wholesalers in East Africa in order to facilitate the purchase of quality-assured medicines for our partners.
LN’s Equipment Financing loan program aims to increase the scope of medical services offered to patients as well as increase revenues for clinics. Our loans fill in an essential gap in local capital markets and give clinics a means of making important capital investments. Partners are eligible to apply for an equipment loan once they have achieved a score of 75% on our quality metric.
As a franchise, all LifeNet programs are designed for multiplication and scaling up. LN aims to create a brand of quality and raise all partners to a high level of quality care and services. And, since LN draws partners into a network, deploying almost any clinic-level intervention is possible.
In March 2013, LN leadership decided to transition the headquarters to Africa, which will increase the local capacity of the organization. All key functions except fund development and recruiting will be handled from Bujumbura.
Our Accomplishments: Improving Quality of Care
After the first year of implementing the franchise (2012), LN successfully demonstrated an average of 72% improvement in the quality of care. One of our main strengths is monitoring and evaluation for measured impact. LN has developed a quality metric that is directly linked to our training program and thus demonstrates how partners are implementing new information and how they are improving on a quarterly basis. In addition, each training lesson is preceded by a pre-test and ended with a post-test, and LN has seen these scores double on a regular basis. This means medical personnel are learning new information during every lesson.
Through pharmaceutical supply, LN has dramatically decreased stock-outs of essential medicines in partnering clinics, especially in rural areas far from the capital city. We are tracking sales volumes of medicines and will also be monitoring stocks according to the National List of Essential Medicines.
LN is developing a system for measuring the financial sustainability of partner clinics as well. Our aim is to build the management capacity of partner clinics so that they are sustainable, healthy enterprises with the ability to re-invest and make improvements with their own earnings.
LN currently works with church-based clinics and hospitals because they see more patients, at higher quality, and for lower cost than most of their counterparts. Churches often operate medical networks, ranging from a handful to several dozen clinics and hospitals, which make them powerful vehicles for change. Importantly, churches draw communities together and are often also improving education and other aspects of the community. Within the private health sector, church-based facilities function as a hybrid entity, in that they prioritize social good over profits but are balanced by a need for financial self-sustainability -- rendering them both compassionate and accountable. LN aims to further the impact of this community-focused system through strategic investments in the people and operations behind it.
LN has a good relationship with the Government of Burundi and Ministry of Health, so expansion into the public sector is a strong possibility according to funding sources and partner interests. LN is also looking for good partners internationally and locally in order to facilitate local expansion to 60 partner clinics by year-end 2013 as well as program scale-up to other countries in the region.