BroadReach Healthcare

In Delivery on September 19, 2009 at 1:01 am

Merging the worlds of business and healthcare

Sarah Littlehale, Staff Writer


“He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything,” or so goes the Arab proverb. Unfortunately, far too few people in this world have such hope.  In the eyes of many, healthcare has become a luxury for the rich yet remains fragmented and uncoordinated in the world’s most impoverished regions.  The founders of BroadReach Healthcare chose to imagine the world differently.

BroadReach is an international consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. and South Africa specializing in global healthcare management.

They function with an “approach of bringing business efficiency and private sector discipline to address international health challenges and opportunities.”[1]

John Sargent and Ernest Darkoh became close friends while attending Harvard Medical School.[2] The two had similar backgrounds, Darkoh growing up in Eastern Africa and Sargent in Taiwan, both having personal experience with and a passion for global health.  “We would stay up at night just talking about how we were going to save the world,” reminisced Sargent.2

Both saw that there were many issues inherent to the current global healthcare system. “You can be in a war zone,” Sargent remarked, “and you can find beer, cigarettes, anything like that, but often … cannot find a single pill of aspirin.”2 How, they wondered, could companies like DHL and UPS manage to track and ship packages around the world, yet the healthcare industry could not manage to effectively distribute something as essential as medicine to those who need it?  These questions provided the seeds for BroadReach’s establishment.

In order to learn the ways of the private sector, both Darkoh and Sargent went to work in the field of management consulting after graduation from medical school.2 Darkoh worked more internationally with McKinsey & Co. while Sargent worked domestically at The Advisory Board Company.  It was here that Sargent met the third founder of BroadReach, Jeff Butler.

In 2001, Darkoh was hired through McKinsey & Co. to work on the strategy for Africa’s first major antiretroviral drug rollout with the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (a partnership between the Merck and Gates Foundations and the Government of Botswana).[3] Darkoh realized that to overcome a problem of such magnitude as the infection in Botswana, HIV care had to go beyond the typical Western medical methods of clinics and hospitals and incorporate many other sectors of the community.[4]

Darkoh and his team included everyone from local church groups and community members to tribal chiefs in working not only to raise awareness but to provide support for HIV/AIDS patients within the community.4 Of course, doctors and medical staff were still a necessity but by providing training HIV/AIDS training to community members would allow many more patients to be seen and diagnosed by taking the day-to-day maintenance out of the hands of the doctors.

This kind of inclusive and holistic approach aimed to get the treatments where they were needed, raise awareness and, perhaps most importantly, break the stigma of the disease.  By including the community in the fight against the disease, infected patients would no longer have to weigh forgoing treatment or admitting being infected for fear of being shunned from society.  Further, this approach would develop infrastructure by introducing job training and creating work.  Darkoh recruited local leaders and community members, brought in outside distribution experts and fought for universal HIV testing, meaning that people visiting clinics would have to ask not to be tested rather than asking to be tested.4 Within three years, over a third of the nation’s HIV-positive people were receiving treatment.3

This work in Botswana helped propel the creation of BroadReach Healthcare.  In 2003, Darkoh, Sargent, and Butler left their jobs2 to start the company that would specialize in “anti-retroviral treatment and offering expertise in program design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation to other countries around the world.”[5]

BroadReach considers its role that of a “systems architect,” organizing fragmented parts of the healthcare systems in impoverished and developing nations into a more integrated, communicative network in order to improve both the delivery and distribution of healthcare.[6] The company offers strategic consulting, health systems strengthening, community mobilization and patient education, and program design & management to health-related organizations from multinational corporations to governments and NGOs1.

BroadReach has developed a model resembling that of a check-out line in order to tap excess capacity.4 There is an “express lane” consisting of trained medical workers and community volunteers for people in need of testing, medication, or treatment literacy and adherence support.  There is also a “slow lane” of doctors, many of whom are private physicians willing to see public patients, for more advanced diagnoses, acute care, and for the gravely ill.  Further, “virtual preceptors,” physicians and HIV/AIDS experts, are available for remote clinical decision support.[7] These elements create an efficient system capable of seeing and treating far more patients than would be possible in a solely hospital- or clinic-based system.

BroadReach is currently working in 15 countries2 with projects including HIV/AIDS support in South Africa, assisting China in drafting a treatment proposal for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and providing management training to local government health program managers in Ethiopia and Tanzania.[8]

John Sargent, the President of BroadReach, told the HCGHR that in the future the company envisions “having multiple companies under the umbrella of BroadReach all addressing developing world health care issues but in different ways.”2

BroadReach was founded with “a vision of combining the best of the public sector with the best of the private sector.”2 In doing so, John Sargent, Ernest Darkoh, and Jeff Butler chose to imagine the world of healthcare “not only as it should be but as it could be.”[9] Imagination is quickly becoming reality.

[1] “BRHC Overview.”  BroadReach Healthcare.  Sep 2008.  Received from John Sargent. 10 Mar 2009.


[2] Sargent, John.  Personal Interview.  10 Mar 2009.

[3] “Ernest Darkoh (00-01 NYO) Creates a New Health Care Model for Africa.” McKinsey News.  12 Jan 2006.  McKinsey&Company.  7 Mar 2009. <https://alumni.mckinsey.com/alumni/default/


[4] Kluger, Jeffrey.  “Efficiency Expert:  Ernest Darkoh.”  TIME Magazine.  31 Oct 2001.  Accessed from:  <http://broadreachhealthcare.com/inTheNews.html&gt;.

[5] “Ernest Darkoh.”  Rx for Survival: Global Health Champions. Mar 2006.  Public Broadcasting Company.  8 Mar 2009.  <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/champions/ernest_


[6] “About BroadReach.” BroadReach Healthcare.  2008.  BroadReach Healthcare.  7 Mar 2009.

< http://broadreachhealthcare.com/aboutBroadReach.html&gt;.

[7] “BroadReach World Bank Presentation.”  17 Jan 2005. The World Bank.  10 Mar 2009.  <http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTAFRREGTOPHIVAIDS/Resources/BroadReach_World_Bank_Presentation_Jan_18.pdf&gt;.

[8] Kapp, Clare. “Ernest Darkoh: confronting the challenge of HIV/AIDS in Africa.”  The Lancet.  5 Aug 2006. Accessed from:  <http://broadreachhealthcare.com/inTheNews.html&gt;.

[9] “BroadReach Healthcare”  BroadReach Healthcare. 2008.  BroadReach Healthcare.  7 Mar 2009.  <http://www.broadreachhealthcare.com/home.html&gt;.


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