Ghanaian private healthcare company outlines three reasons for its success

Although few people, myself included, enjoy spending time at hospitals or clinics, walking into the Diagnostic Centre’s modern facilities and cool air conditioning is a welcome relief from Accra’s heat and humidity. The Diagnostic Centre opened its doors in January 2011 in Ghana’s capital Accra.

Founded by a mix of international and Ghanaian investors, the facility offers state-of-the-art medical diagnostic services to patients in Ghana and the rest of West Africa. On a walk-in basis, patients can undergo MRI, CT, X-ray, mammography, ultrasound and bone densitometry examinations, with results provided on the same day.

During a time when private sector healthcare opportunities in Africa are increasingly coming to the fore, How we made it in Africa sat down with the Diagnostic Centre’s general manager Samuel Waterberg to learn more about the strategies behind the company’s success. Many of these strategies can also be applied to other businesses.

1. Making the equipment sweat

Sophisticated medical equipment doesn’t come cheap. According to Waterberg, it is therefore essential to get maximum value out of these machines. “You have to make the equipment sweat,” he says.

“If you are charging the same as other places, and they do 20 examinations a day, and you do 100 examinations a day, you will make it. And that is what we have been able to do,” says Waterberg.

The Diagnostic Centre’s success is also due to its ability to attract a large number of patients – roughly 150 per day. It caters for patients from all income levels, from prominent politicians to informal traders.

2. Competitive pricing

However, to attract such high numbers of patients, the services need to be affordable. In Ghana most people’s medical insurance doesn’t cover diagnostic tests.

Waterberg enjoys telling the story of a prominent Ghanaian who visited the centre for tests. After he arrived he sent an aide to go and get more money as he believed the cash he had on him wouldn’t have been enough to pay for the services. “I asked him how much he had, and the amount he had was enough to do the examination. When he saw our modern facilities he thought that the cost would be five times the price that he was quoted by another hospital. Every Ghanaian should be able to have good quality healthcare, and that is what we believe in, and that is what we are providing,” says Waterberg.

3. Offering better quality than the competition

When the Diagnostic Centre first opened, there were only a handful of facilities in Ghana that offered these services. Most of the equipment at these facilities also broke down regularly, and patients had to wait for weeks to get an appointment and equally long for their reports.

However, the Diagnostic Centre changed the game with its state-of-the-art equipment and by providing patients with a report on the same day as their examination.

“If you had an accident, and you want to have a scan done, there is no reason why you have to wait two to three days. You need that investigation immediately, so that the doctor could do the treatment. Diagnostic Centre provides a report within an hour,” says Waterberg.

The centre also offers its patients extra services such as the ability to get a second opinion from radiologists abroad. “We have a network of doctors in every continent, so you can have a radiologist in America look at your report. These are extra services that we provide for the expat community. In the past they were flying outside to do diagnostic tests, but now they know they can get it done here. We can give them a good report, but we can also give them a second opinion.”