Kieran Godden, CEO of Total Health Trust Ltd., discusses the company’s mission to empower Nigeria’s people and make the country healthier.
Making Nigeria a healthier place. It’s central to everything Total Health Trust (THT) is working to achieve.
It forms part of Liberty Health which operates across 27 sub-Saharan countries providing health insurance solutions. THT is a leading Health Management Organisation (HMO) dedicated to serve SMEs, corporates and multinationals in Nigeria. Founded in 1997, THT provides affordable, reliable healthcare insurance services and solutions. Its primary business is insurance, with a particular focus on the health sector. At its core, the company believes health support and improvement are a major part of a sustainable solution to ensure the wellbeing of the customers it serves. THT is headquartered in Lagos and operates branches in eight other Nigerian cities.
And at its helm sits Kieran Godden, CEO since January 2020. Having worked in the insurance industry for over 21 years, he comments that he ‘almost fell into health insurance’.
“I moved to Nigeria to acquire, start up and lead a life insurance business for Liberty Holdings,” he says. “The transaction didn’t work out and I transferred across to Liberty’s health insurance business in Nigeria first as Chief Operating Officer and then as CEO.”
As a result of the global disruption caused by COVID-19 over the past 12 months, Godden admits that the last year has been a difficult hurdle to overcome but is keen to see the positives.
“It’s certainly more challenging than exciting at the moment,” he admits. “There have been a huge range of emotions, but it has been incredibly fulfilling.
“Times like these are why we exist, and we have definitely seen a lot more interest from clients in securing proper, quality cover for their healthcare and wellness needs.”
However, Godden admits that there is a shortage of medical care across the majority of Africa, with doctor to population ratios considerably lower than in other parts of the world.
“What is exciting is that we are very slowly starting to see this change and I think, the pandemic will spur on development and innovation as we emerge from the economic slump.”
After COVID-19 hit, THT invested significantly in supporting healthcare providers through additional payments for personal protective equipment. This contributed to securing the sustainability of the healthcare ecosystem. According to Godden, this is down to his company’s mantra of always being there for its customers when they are really needed.
“From a pure benefit coverage point of view, we made very little adjustment,” he says. “We covered both the testing and treatment of COVID-19 from the start and fully intend to continue with this. This is particularly challenging as there are limited facilities that can treat the disease safely (without risk of significant further transmission).
“We are one of the very few insurers across Africa to provide this cover and the only African based insurer.”
Part of Liberty Health, the organisation has a number of offerings, such as Liberty Health Cover, Managed Care Capitation Plans, National Health Insurance Scheme administration, and Third Party Administration. THT insures more than 480 employer groups and 190,000 members. Apart from its core offering of a wide range of affordable health insurance plans, THT also offers value-added wellness services cutting across different areas of health, fitness, diet and health maintenance. Its African footprint, through Liberty Health, allows the company to leverage world-class solutions together with local expertise and a network of more than 1,800 healthcare providers in Nigeria to deliver better healthcare results.
Along with many other companies, THT was agile in switching to remote working as a proactive measure to curb the spread of the virus. Godden is full of praise for the speed at which his people adapted.
“In addition to the normal work-from-home arrangements that all businesses have implemented, we invested in assisting the sustainability of the healthcare industry and also in serving our clients better. We pivoted our whole business to digital and remote interaction, rather than try to continue doing the same things, just from home.”
In collaboration with Liberty Health, THT began its full digitisation journey in 2019. The company is implementing a single platform administration capability that is unique across the continent as it can handle multiple countries, multiple currencies and multiple products on one system.
“The power of the system is that it provides control and governance while enabling a full range of interactive options for customers and providers, all from one source system,” he says. “We are aiming to have the system fully implemented within the next twelve months but there will be features going live all through this time.”
With the importance of establishing key, strategic partnerships in mind, Godden affirms that good relationships are essential to ensuring satisfied customers.
“Our industry is interesting in that we sell a product that we do not actually deliver. While we provide funding for healthcare, the care itself is delivered by our partner healthcare providers and facilities,” he explains.
“While we do not provide the care ourselves, our customers rely on us to ensure consistent quality and best outcomes. We have a rigorous quality assurance and audit programme to ensure that this is the case. If a member has a bad experience, it is often the insurer who is contacted first and expected to manage the situation. We have a team of case managers, all medical professionals, who handle all high-risk cases on a personal level and keep regular contact with the member and also with the hospitals.
“Another key partner in our ecosystem are the brokers and consultants. In this case, we work together with them to provide a service to their clients as they are the primary owners of those relationships. It is vital that the insurer and the broker have a strong relationship and can manage difficult situations quickly and easily.”
However, Godden believes that every business relationship takes time to nurture and that it is important to be patient to grow long-lasting and sustainable partnerships.
“No relationship is perfect because we are all human and will make mistakes from time to time,” he muses. “It is how well we recover from these mistakes and how we learn from them that separates the good from the great.”
“The stronger the relationship, the easier it is to communicate and resolve issues.”
Indeed, when it comes to supply chain, reliable partnerships are a key component to the success of a company.
“We choose suppliers often for the sustainability of the relationship or service and not only the price,” he explains. “In any challenging environment, it is your partners and relationships that can make a huge difference. We try in all cases to deal honourably and fairly with our partners just as we do with our customers.”
To Godden, staff are the heartbeat of the organisation. THT’s strategy is built around its people and Godden believes that his employees are ‘the business’.
“Our strategy is built around people and we see this in two parts – our people and customers,” he says. “We have defined a way of working for the organisation that the whole management team put together and all the staff had some time to comment on. These are action statements and not a set of dry ‘values’, that will only ever appear on the wall of the reception. We try every day to do these things.”
As a Group, Liberty Health committed to doing its utmost to avoid pay cuts or job losses. As a result, Godden believes staff have recognised that conscious effort and repaid that with hard work amidst the pandemic.
“I think we are very fortunate that all THT’s people are resilient and adaptable,” he explains. “They have coped with everything that the epidemic and the lockdowns have thrown at them and continued to be there for customers. I have been very proud of all our people, over the last year more than ever.”
Looking ahead to the future, Godden outlines his key focus areas for the next year.
“We want to offer training for all staff, members, clients and providers,” he explains. “We also want to improve our members’ experience at healthcare providers even further – across the whole spectrum of the service.”
“We’d also like to continue to build on our digital foundation, such as our social media and web presence, webinars and digital wellness and education. We will continue to grow.”