Advocates and patient organization leaders from across Africa and the Middle East met from November 13-14, 2015 in Marrakech, Morocco for Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Training. HTA is a form of policy research that examines the short and long-term consequences of using a healthcare technology. It is a multidisciplinary process that summarises information about the medical, social, economic and ethical issues related to the use of a health technology in a systematic, transparent, unbiased and robust manner. Organized by The Max Foundation (US-based organization), the workshop provided patient organizations in the region with an understanding of HTA and its role in HTA as an ‘evidence-based’ process.
Two experts led in the training; Professor Panos Kanavos, adept health economist from the London School of Economics and international advisor on HTA and Jean Mossman, an authority on health systems trainings for advocates. Together, they have co-developed a curriculum for training health advocates which has now been used in each region of the world. Workshop organizers shared the belief that a successful access strategy must ensure that the patient voice and concerns are addressed when making key decisions within health systems.
CBC Health Services (CBCHS) Director’s personal representative at the training workshop, Mr. Ndosak George – Personnel Manager, says HTA is a new concept in Africa which has proven to work so well in the US and Europe. The key message from the event, according to Mr. Ndosak, is for countries and organizations to strengthen their regulatory capacities and to put in place systems that will ease access to health care by citizens. He said, for this to happen, structures to co-finance or pay in full for healthcare must be created.
“In Cameroon, over 95 percent of patients actually pay for healthcare out of pocket, a thing that’s completely being abolished all over the world now,” he explained while averring that most counties are moving into full insurance payments or co-financing. Even though the private sector in Cameroon is already struggling to do something like the Mutual Health Organization, BEPHA and others, Mr. Ndosak stated that healthcare co-financing is still a creeping phenomenon in the country. To him, if this concept is fully embraced, most of our patients will be happy and this can ensure a healthy population with life expectancy expected to rise.
Although health care financing is still at infancy stage in our setting, the CBC Health Services Personnel Manager says there is a need to begin small. The organization, according to him, is known for its innovative approaches to issues around healthcare in Cameroon. “We’ll like to begin right from within our organization. CBC Health Services covers the cost of healthcare for its employees and that’s something we we’ll need to relook to ascertain how effective this is going on, how efficient it is being implemented, discover areas of abuse and look at its sustainability,” explained Mr. Ndosak. He maintained that the CBC Health Services has thoughts around healthcare insurance especially with the concept of “Adopt a Healthcare Worker” scheme that enables employees to contribute for colleagues that are sick. He, however, reiterated the need to review what the CBC Health Services is doing and advocate to the government using its excellent relations with the Ministry of Health for a National Health Insurance in Cameroon.
Key to the discussions in Marrakech was the fact that prizes of drugs should be established considering the voice of the patients. Unfortunately cost of treatment for patients especially those living with cancer is very expensive in most countries while others are already offering free cancer treatment. It is regrettable that some people get sick with cancer in Cameroon, the pain will grow and they finally die in agony with no means of going to a hospital. For those who are able to make it to the hospital, they still find the cost of cancer treatment highly unaffordable. Efforts like those of the CBC Health Services Palliative Care programme have to be intensified.
The CBC Health Services was attending the HTA training workshop alongside one other organization from Cameroon. Topics covered at the training workshop included Health Technology Assessment overview, Heath systems in the region (creating the context), HTA applied within cancer care (case examples), Pricing of new products (methods of assessment and innovation in cancer) and How patient groups can contribute to HTA.