Expanding access to healthcare is one of the most critical priorities of our time. According to the World Health Organization, 400 million people around the world do not have access to essential health services—that is more than the entire population of the United States. This bleak reality is one we all must work to urgently address. But emerging technologies can enable us to deliver healthcare worldwide in ways previously impossible.
At Novartis, we have seen that proper delivery systems—including robust supply chains, effective health services, adequate infrastructure and more trained healthcare workers—are key to providing access sustainably.
As mobile phones become increasingly prevalent around the world, we can leverage them to reach people in areas where infrastructure is limited and healthcare professionals are scarce—in real time. For example, during the 2014 Ebola outbreaks in Africa, mobile-tracking technology was used to predict the spread of the disease. Text messages and electronic mapping have also tracked supply levels of malaria medications in remote villages in Africa, and in so doing, ensured that supplies are available where they are needed.
To improve access to healthcare, we must also design programs to fit local cultural norms, and provide supportive education to local communities. In India, for example, we created a program that recruits and trains locals to educate communities in more remote areas about healthy behaviors. Local teams work with doctors to organize health camps in villages that then provide access to screening, diagnosis and treatment.
Patient assistance and social business programs offer vital immediate solutions to patients with limited access to healthcare. Our Novartis Access program offers 15 patented and non-patented medicines for $1 per treatment per month to patients in low- to middle-income countries. Beyond the portfolio, which addresses key non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, diabetes and breast cancer, the program offers capacity-building activities to support healthcare systems in preventing, diagnosing and treating these conditions.
When it comes to healthcare, emerging technologies can empower us to do a lot more. But all stakeholders—governments, non-profits and private businesses—must work together to create innovative, sustainable solutions that ensure patients access to care for the long-term.