Unitus & GV Healthcare Study Highlighted in Microfinance Focus

March 9, 2010 Posted by Media Exposure

Unitus, GV Study Debunks Myths and Finds Potential Solutions for Improving Healthcare for the Poor

From Microfinance Focus, Study by Unitus, Grama Vidiyal Microfinance shows prospects for financial prodcuts to meet healthcare needs, by Nagesh Narayana.

“Increasingly microfinance institutions (MFIs) are realizing the need to go beyond Micro-Credit, like providing divergent financial products to address the small needs of the unbanked or low-income people.

Non-profit advisory firm  Unitus and Tamil Nadu-based NBFC microfinance , Grama Vidiyal have recently completed a joint market research study that set out to assess the healthcare needs and the current behavior vis-à-vis health care amongst the MFI members, and to identify key pain points and need gaps in health care sector for microfinance clients.

The findings made available to Microfinance Focus show that the study was able to identify where individual attitudes and systemic shortcomings have left poor populations underserved, and by extension have created opportunities for  health care products deliverable through the MFI system.

To this end, IMRB International carried out a market research study among the relevant target group and the finding are relatively different from the hypothses they had in mind. The broad hypotheses like accessibility to healthcare, availability of healthcare, proximity to pharmaceutical drugs, affordability, and the need for emergency healthcare were examined in an intensive research methodology involving 300 borrowers.

  • The first hypothesis that accessibility with regard to healthcare is an issue (and  the sub hypothesis of non availability of diagnosis centres)  has been rejected based on the findings in the quantitative phase.

  • The second  hypothesis that satisfaction levels with the current healthcare facilities available is low (and the sub hypothesis that private facilities have a higher satisfaction levels compared to government facilities) has been rejected.

  • The third  hypothesis that lack of well stocked pharmacies is an issue has also been rejected.

The findings show that the borowers have bunked the first three hypotheses in the study saying they have better accessibility to healthcare within a range of 1 km, have been satisfied with the availability of  healthcare in their neighbourhood, and that they have easy access to pharmaceutical drugs in their vicinity.


The fourth  hypothesis that affordability of healthcare services is an issue has been proved based on the  findings from the quantitative phase. Since initial estimates showed that the respondents are running on Rs.14,000/- deficit on an annual base, 47% of the respondents borrow money even for consulting doctors and 98% of them borrow money in case of hospitalization.

The fifth  hypothesis that there is scope for a loan product to meet financial emergencies has been proved based on the following findings from the quantitative phase and the most important sources of funds in times of a medical emergencies are: Pledging of jewels; Loans from SHGs; Borrow from friends / relatives; or Borrow from money lenders. It showed that 92% of the respondents are willing to take a medical emergency loan if an MFI comes out with such a product.

Moreover, almost all of the consumers are willing to take a medical emergency loan, if an MFI comes out with such a loan.


Overall findings show that the average amount spent for overall healthcare in last one year was Rs. 6,800. People visiting private facilities spend more compared to those visiting government facilities 98% of the respondents or any member in their households have consulted a doctor in last 1 year & on an average have spent Rs. 2,200 on consultation. Every households have bought medicines in last 1 year and on an average have spent Rs. 2,700 for buying the medicines.

Nearly a fourth of respondents or households have undergone a medical test in last one year, incidence of  surgeries is 5% in last one year among the target group and accessibility of medical facilities is not a major issue with this group.

The average distance that the consumers have to travel to the nearest healthcare facility is around one kilometer and the most often used method of going to this facility is walking and it takes less than half an hour for them to reach this facility. For a vast majority of the consumers (73%) the nearest healthcare facility is the one which they visit for most of their healthcare needs.

In 96% of the cases, the closest healthcare facility has an in-patient department, in 55% of the cases, the nearest facility is available 24 hours. Unlike the general perception, there is a high levels of satisfaction with both government and private hospitals.

Majority of respondents are able to meet most of their medicine requirements from a medical store which is less than one kilometer away and in most cases is reachable in 10-15 minutes.


Almost all of the consumers are willing to take a medical emergency loan, if an MFI comes out with such a loan. So, the most important need for this target group as far as healthcare is concerned is financial empowerment to avail of quality healthcare facilities.

The study has concluded that there is scope for a loan product to meet financial emergencies. The ideal loan amount is put at Rs.9,500 by the study, with a monthly repayment frequency at Rs.1,000 per month to be repaid in 1 to 1 ½ years.

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