Tackling South Africa’s “Intimate Healthcare” Needs

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The traditional model of healthcare has generally been limited to treatment in health facilities. But, when it comes to effectively treating more private and deeply personal health conditions, especially in South Africa, companies such as Coloplast have untaken substantial efforts to partner hand-in-hand with patients through support programs that focus solely on emotional and social wellbeing, rather than medical.

With the core of its therapeutic priorities centralized on tackling South Africa’s quadruple burden of disease, less immediate and, in many cases, more personal health conditions are often lost in conversations. Having recently revitalized its operations in South Africa roughly two years ago, Coloplast has made significant strides in addressing very private and personal medical conditions—what the company refers to as “intimate healthcare.” The origins of Coloplast are rooted in ostomy care—now providing some of the most widely used products in this market—but has since expanded its scope to also cover urology, continence, and would care.

The Danish company has recently reformulated a segment of their global strategy to focus specifically on high growth emerging markets like South Africa. According to Jesper Johnsen Steen, the affiliate’s country manager, “South Africa has a dying need of qualified therapists in ostomy care, as it is not recognized as a nursing specialty, unlike in other countries. This gap becomes a huge problem as it makes this specialty area far less appealing—further contributing to the shortage.”

As stoma care can often lead to emotional and psychological distress for first time patients, the company has also introduced its largely successful support program—Coloplast Care—to complement its portfolio of stoma devices. “We make sure the patient has a good experience using our products, while helping them facilitate a seamless transition from hospital to home. We acknowledge the emotional toll these medical conditions might take on our customers’ abilities to lead a normal life, which is why our operators are there to provide lifestyle advice and educational tips, rather than medical instruction,” details Steen.

The program has trained specialists that are solely tasked with actively engaging patients on a regular basis about key issues related to living with stoma, various tips and tricks to minimize drastic lifestyle changes, and, perhaps most importantly, general wellbeing. In tailoring this program to the local South African environment, Coloplast Care has now enrolled roughly 4,000 people, compared to the 350,000 globally.

Although South African has made significant strides in developing its healthcare system, there still exists many areas of the sector with underserved interests.  “Many people live in an environment where access to doctors is extremely limited and because of the severe corruption challenges in the government over the years public procurement has become a long and arduous process,” argues Steen.

But it is perhaps in these shortcomings that companies such as Coloplast are able to see the face of opportunity where others can’t and effectively drive success. “We are the only company that is literally looking after patients and educating on a large scale,” Steen contends.

Click here to read more articles and interviews from South Africa, and to download the latest free pharma report on the country.

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