How to Unlock Powerful Partnerships

by Jan-Willem Scheijgrond, Vice President, Global & Public Affairs, Royal Philips @Philips and Stephanie Dolan, Deputy Director, Corporate Partnerships & Philanthropy @PSIImpact

Public-private partnerships are often key to unlocking innovative healthcare solutions in the developing world, putting the power of good health directly in the hands of those who need it most. Philips, a corporate leader in healthcare technology, is working with national governments to create partnerships that work hard for the private sector, the public sector, and most importantly, the people they serve.

PSI’s Deputy Director for Corporate Partnerships, Stephanie Dolan, chatted with Jan-Willem Scheijgrond of Philips’ Government Affairs office to learn more about the innovative partnerships they’re building.

Stephanie Dolan: What platforms exist that bring together public and private partners early on to co-create processes that effectively mitigate risk, especially in fragile markets?

Jan-Willem Scheijgrond: At Philips, we believe in the need to build platforms where partners from the public sector, private sector and civil society can convene and co-create health solutions. A neutral convener is essential to this process. In Kenya, the UN Resident Coordinator and the Minister of Health are convening these partners to unlock US$1 billion in investments for primary care. Philips was one of the first partners to join this initiative.

SD: In low- and middle-income countries, the private sector delivers as much as 60 percent of health services. Often, these ventures are undercapitalized and fragmented. What prevents investors from entering these markets?

JWS: This is due to a mix of things. There is often no pooling of demand for healthcare services, like insurance. It’s difficult to predict demand, which reduces the financing appetite of well- capitalized investors. Another challenge is that governments often don’t see private providers as part of the healthcare system and don’t include them in reimbursement schemes. If these governments provided public healthcare services and offered reimbursed healthcare services, they could invest in private providers. However, due to these uncertainties, private providers rely heavily on out-of-pocket expenditures—in some countries, clients pay as much as 75 percent of costs out-of-pocket. For private providers, this is often an unreliable and unpredictable source of funding.

SD: What incentives does the private sector offer to those making long-term investments in the digital health space?

JWS: At the moment there is no clear market, since most countries haven’t developed a coherent digital health strategy. Governments must create demand for a supply that simply isn’t there. I’ll give you an example. With our innovations, Philips will be able to reach pregnant women and nurses in remote locations with ultrasound technology, while a radiographer coaches and supports the nurse remotely via telephone. The images collected can also be sent electronically to central diagnostic centers, where artificial technology and experts can identify at-risk pregnancies. This service will be 50 percent cheaper than services offered at urban hospitals. So it’s a win-win—quality antenatal care in local communities at a fraction of the cost, without having to travel to a hospital. But without a comprehensive “digital and connected care” strategy, governments can’t consider these kinds of innovations. Digital health has the power to completely transform healthcare, especially in developing countries.


This article appears in PSI’s Impact magazine, released in tandem with Women Deliver 2019, as part of an ongoing conversation about putting #PowerInHerHands.

Banner Image: © PSI/Chris White

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