Here's a great story from National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States that I wanted to share. It profiles a 2-year-old company called Healthpoint Services that delivers clean water and affordable healthcare to poor rural populations in India. This is not a charitable organisation—it is very much a capitalist enterprise—and that's what makes this initiative so intriguing. "The Healthpoint model combines videoconferencing with cheap diagnostic tests and inexpensive water filtration all in one building," reports NPR's Jophn Ydstie. The typical consultation comes to about 40 cents; on-site diagnostic tests range in price from 20 cents to US$6. But how do you make a profit, asks Ydstie. It's the water.
Each Healthpoint clinic has a water filtration plant. Clean water is a luxury in the parts of the world where Healthpoint operates. Households must subscribe to receive clean drinking water. It costs approximately US$1.50 a month for 600 litres of water, which is enough to meet the needs of a family of six. CEO AMit Jain says that 50% to 60% of households in a village served by Healthpoint become subscribers. The water business is profitable, according to Jain, and it drives traffic to the clinics.
I highly recommend reading (or listening to) Selling Water, Healthcare in the Developing World on the NPR site. The comments are also quite interesting: "Nooooooooo! No profit motive in medicine! Anywhere!" writes one reader, to which another replies, "Healthpoint is providing desperately needed medical services. If they make a buck, we'll forgive them."
Where do you stand?