DevExplains: 'Intermediaries' in the health market

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 18 October 2016

Health workers attend to a patient at a clinic in Luang Prabang’s Provincial Hospital. Photo by: Adri Berger / CC BY-NC-ND

The health market is often populated with three players: the government, which heads up overall policy direction; and NGOs and private health care providers that deliver health services where they’re lacking or where there’s weak health infrastructure.

In this ecosystem, however, there’s another set of players whose role is less about directly providing health care, and more about ensuring health care services are available, that health care reaches different segments of the population, and that it is provided within a set of quality standards.

Who are these players?

The Center for Health Market Innovations, a platform providing information and analysis on innovative health programs and policies across the globe for the benefit of different actors such as implementers, funders and researchers, identified these players in a recent report as ‘intermediaries’ or those organizations that, in a nutshell, build and manage relationships between government, health care providers, vendors and patients to create better coordination, savings and continued access to care for the population.

How do they operate?

Intermediaries currently operating in the health market space are composed of nonprofits and for-profit organizations, and they operate differently depending on the problem they are facing in a given context. Some examples according to the CHMI report include the Christian Health Association of Malawi, which consists of 180 health facilities across the country. The association helps the government tap into its network of small-scale health care providers through a single service contract. This eases the burden on the part of the government in entering in multiple individual contracts with a huge number of primary care clinics, while finding a way to provide health services to a wider set of the population without having to build its own public health facility or infrastructure.

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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