5.16.2017

Pocket Doctor- Healthcare Done by Startups

On the flip side of undevelopment is opportunity: there is ample room for innovation (and even appropriation of established methods) to solve the myriad of health care problems in Africa. And startups are doing just that! According to McKinsey, the African healthcare space is a multi-billion dollar industry that is rapidly growing.

Access to health is typically abysmal in low-income countries. But, as the world becomes more connected, various businesses have sprung up to link patients to the appropriate health personnel, literally putting a doctor in your mobile phone. Paramount to the issue of access, however, is cost, and in areas where doctors are available, people are often priced out. That’s where startups like Mobisure come in.


Mobisure’s model allows for health insurance schemes where small monthly contributions from communities goes into a pool, providing access for all contributors. The innovation is in the fact that these payments can be collected electronically and at the convenience of the clients. Penda Health is another enterprise that ensures the provision of high-quality health services to middle and low-income people at a fraction of the cost. They set up and run clinics tailored to the health challenges of women and provide standard care. Another female friendly health innovation is the Ruby Cup, an affordable, sanitary menstrual product. In Africa, lack of good menstrual hygiene with associated diseases and loss of education or income that comes with isolation during the menstrual cycle of women, is a problem.

Startups often attempt to solve health problems by preventing them. QuaWater develops and delivers products and projects that significantly improve the quality of people’s drinking water, a significant source of diseases in Africa. They use reliable technologies to produce water purification systems for homes and even large sized villages. Investment in their solutions is usually long term, and they provide support to their customers.

Other startups like ClaimSync (acquired in 2013 by Genkey) provide an end-to-end claims processing platform that enables hospitals and other healthcare providers easily prepare medical claims and send them electronically to health insurance companies. These helps hospital administrations to organise their systems better and to be able to recover claims in a timely and efficient manner. The overall operating costs can, therefore, be reduced hence more affordable services can be offered to people.

Software applications like Santé Africa fill a unique position by linking doctors that sign up to the program to patients in the comfort of their homes. Payments can be made electronically on mobile phones and using internet video call services, a doctor can have face to face consultations with patients whose complaints are minor enough and may not require a physical hospital visit. Doctors to the program are screened, subscription or consultation costs are kept low.

Technological advancement driven by need are all that is required for startups to begin changing the landscape of healthcare provision, and the results are evidentiary.


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