Interview with Dr Korli Glover, CEO of Life Healthcare Medical, Dental and Optical Centre

Can you give us an overview of the business?

Life Healthcare was founded in 2008 by Dr Nana Kwame Asante-Appiah, a dentist who was based in South Africa but decided to come back to open our first clinic in Accra Mall. We are now located in several malls in Accra, Ghana, including Junction Mall, Achimota Mall and Palace Mall. We are a group with four medical clinics, six dental clinics and three optical centers. Outside of that, we also run three pharmacies, in Terminal 3, Palace Mall and Achimota Mall. Our clinics are all OPD clinics (outpatient department).

Why did you set up in malls?

Each of the malls needs an emergency center because often times people collapse, some are injured, and emergencies happen within the mall. So, the clinic is one critical function of the mall. A mall is a place where people can come to shop, get medical and dental care, and do other things. Business-wise, you have automatic traffic coming towards you because you are in the mall. We can help people and make sure that if there is an emergency they can be treated before they are transferred to other places.

What kinds of services do you offer?

It is a full OPD (outpatient department) medical clinic with dental and optical services. For the medical, we have regular GPs, pediatricians, dermatologists, and physician specialists. There is also an orthopedic surgeon, a dietician, psychiatrist, and psychologist. On the dental side, there is regular and specialized dentistry, and we also provide optical services. When you come in, whatever service you need you can get in-house from us, or we can refer you to other places. These services can be accessed at all of our branches depending on the number of patients at any one branch.

What is your competitive advantage? What makes you different from other clinics?

Life Healthcare was founded in 2008. We are now located in several malls in Accra, Ghana. We have four medical clinics, six dental clinics and three optical centers.

We are a one-stop shop. Clients do not have to go to different places to access services. For example, when you come to our dental clinics you can get X-rays done, as well as other services. When you are waiting for your lab results, we do not send you home and then have you come back because they arrive on the same day. You can go shopping or window shopping, unlike at a regular hospital where you have to sit and wait and get bored for two hours unless you have something else to do. With our clinics in the malls, some people come with their kids, they see their doctor, take their kids shopping or they go and have lunch and then they come back. Because we are in different parts of Accra, our software is networked. If you see a dentist in Accra Mall and then, for instance, you have an emergency and you live near the Junction Mall, you can access services over there.

What is your observation of the healthcare system in Ghana?

It is a huge gold mine. The opportunities are endless. Traveling as a student going outside you realize that the only difference between our healthcare system and the ones out there is the accessibility to gadgets. For green power it is similar or better. There are a lot of things that can be done, but either we do not have the manpower here or the gadgets are not available. I stayed in Ghana because I wanted to try to do my best to make those things become available. South Africa is a healthcare hub, but West Africa has none. It is a place that if capitalized properly, you would get the full benefits of having a very good healthcare system.

Has COVID-19 affected your business?

During the lockdowns it was crazy. The numbers really dropped massively. But since the vaccines came in, business has come back to normal. Our group was lucky, especially our dental clinics, as we have very good numbers year-to-year. Because there were a lot of restrictions in dental care in England and the US, we had a lot of clients who came down for holidays and had their dental care before they went back.

How has the pandemic changed the healthcare system?

You have to exercise more caution. Things that you used to take for granted a few years ago you cannot now. I tried to put into the minds of my staff not to stigmatize people. As soon as someone sneezes a bit everyone shies away from them, so you have to get in your mind that you have had a vaccine and have sterilized and disinfected everything to limit transmission of the virus. None of our staff in any of our branches has been hospitalized or got sick.

Who is your clientele?

It is really everybody. We try to run a business of numbers. Our database has almost 94,000 clients in it and about 70% are active in a year. We deal with almost all of the private insurance companies and they expose us to 200,000 clients or more. Because we are located in different areas, we can defray to any of the centers. People are on different insurance plans, but I do not believe that my skills should be the preserve of the rich. My skills can benefit all people, not just the ones who can afford to pay me. Our philosophy is to provide services for all human beings. It is a special feeling to be able to help people.

Do you have a favorite success story?

My proud moments are being able to grow the business. After I finished as a trainee, I went into private practice and there were so many warnings and what ifs. What if it collapses? What if you are sacked? What if it does not work out? But instead, I thought what if I do everything right? What if it works out? Growing with a company from one branch to now and growing staff from 7 to about 100, and in multiple areas, and not asking for a handout during COVID, is something I am very proud of.

What is your vision for the company in the short-term?

In the next 5 years, we are looking at having a central point for all of our OPDs. We find that the human face and customer care are lacking in the system, so we want that to become the norm. I tell my staff to treat people the way you want to be treated. If you do not want to be shouted at do not shout at patients because nobody likes to be shouted at. We have been successful over the years by not profiling people based on what they do or how they are dressed. We treat everyone with respect. We would also like to have people come from other countries in West Africa to access our services. On the dental side, dental implant surgeries can be expensive and waiting times in the public sector are long, so if you can put up a facility that has a huge dental hospital within, costs can be lowered. Many Ghanaians go to India to get surgery done, so we need to look at replicating the same thing here. The cost clients pay for a ticket to India could be used towards a procedure here. That is what we are working towards. It will require a lot of investment, but we are trying to do something.

Is dentistry where you want to focus more of your business?

No. On the medical part, currently I am trying to put some people in training so that by the time I get to the point where I am building a facility, we will have our own residents and will not depend on residents coming from other places. In Francophone West Africa, if you have some training in Ghana, you are deemed to have been taught very well. That part of the medical side is one thing that we are working on. In other things like pediatrics, the private sector has not made a strong case for itself, so by the time we launch, we will have our own core team that can carry out our plans.

What is your strategy to attract investment?

We want to make ourselves more visible in the digital space. Before you can market yourself, you need expertise, which is why we are working on getting our core teams skills that are not readily available in the market. When they then carry out successful procedures that people hear about it will gain more market share for us.

What inspires you?

I am trying to make an impact in my generation. I am trying to change the narrative and make lives better. We are all actors on a big stage and the time will come when you have played your part and you bow out. But you must make sure you play your part very well so that long after you are gone, the impact will still be felt. In the end, you are on Earth to impact lives. Putting money in the bank does not do anything. It is when it is spent to educate somebody, or when it is spent on somebody’s surgery, or paying somebody, that is when money is of value.

The impact of changing someone’s life is not for that generation alone, it is for generations yet to come. Fixing a kid’s teeth when they are not well aligned to give them a better smile and make them feel good about themselves is inspiring. Someone has life-changing surgery and instead of dying they live and go on to impact others. The rippling effects are beyond just touching somebody or spending your money on somebody. It goes generations ahead and that is what inspires me. To leave a mark so that years after I am gone, the impact will still be felt in this life and beyond.

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