In December 2013, Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, announced ambitious targets on access to healthcare in recognition of the important role that this plays in “combatting poverty and spurring economic development.” Earlier that same year, the CEOs who signed the Guiding Principles on Access to Healthcare acknowledged that all stakeholders of the healthcare system must work together to seek sustainable solutions to improving access.

One year later—as the Ebola outbreak demonstrates the persistent weaknesses of health systems in many parts of the world—BSR has published a new report examining how companies can address access to healthcare. Our research highlighted six lessons healthcare companies can apply to improve access to healthcare:

  1. One size does not fit all. Healthcare companies are approaching access through numerous methods designed to produce just as many different outcomes. There is not just one solution to access, simply because there is not just one problem to be solved. Current and future unmet medical and healthcare needs are diverse and complex. In order to provide solutions, companies must develop initiatives tailored to the problem, and closely linked to their own strengths and capabilities.
  2. Collaboration is critical. Companies partner with a broad spectrum of organizations and stakeholders, from NGOs to governments and multilaterals, to companies from other sectors and, increasingly, to peers. This speaks to the complexity of the healthcare sector’s challenges. The level of resources and skillsets required often exceeds the capacity of an individual player. By entering partnerships, healthcare companies can use their partners’ unique expertise, whether it is technological, geographical, scientific, commercial, or logistical.
  3. Technology enhances access. Healthcare companies are embracing technology and technological partnerships in a big way, creating innovative solutions to access issues. Some examples include the use of e-learning, social media, and cell phones to increase access to healthcare products and information. One of the biggest opportunities is for healthcare companies to combine innovative technologies with their medicine and expertise to provide access to more information, to train medical practitioners, to perform remote diagnostics, and, overall, to contribute to increased access to healthcare.
  4. A focus on global goals promotes collective progress. Companies are working to advance global health agendas, developing approaches to eliminate diseases and meet medical needs, and working toward tackling the increasing threat from noncommunicable diseases. As we look toward the post-2015 development agenda, healthcare companies will be expected to increase their efforts toward meeting global goals—especially in a world that is undergoing considerable growth and, at times, unpredictable demographic changes.
  5. Measurement is key. Setting ambitious, clear targets and track results are essential elements, not only to assess annual progress, but also to drive long-term results. Measurement and transparency provide valuable insight to help stakeholders assess whether individual companies are pursuing the right avenues to advance access.
  6. Connecting to business drives systemic change. Initiatives that link to the company’s core business operations, products, and/or strategic objectives—and programs that are designed to drive returns for the organization—provide tangible business benefits that are likely to increase the long-term viability of the initiative. More and more, we see healthcare companies seeking sustainable solutions that promote access to care by integrating access to healthcare as a core element of the company’s operations.

Find out more about the opportunity to expand access to healthcare by reading our status report “The Guiding Principles on Access to Healthcare: From Aspiration to Action,” and by accessing 50 individual cases. Please share your views with us: Comment here, tweet using #GPAH, or email us at gpah@bsr.org.