Five Startups Changing the African Healthcare Landscape
Africa’s health care systems are at a critical turning point. The continent suffers from poor healthcare infrastructure and also a lack of healthcare professionals to address the needs of the growing population. The reforms that governments undertake over the next decade will be crucial to cutting mortality rates and improving health outcomes in the continent.
In the absence of government reforms however, how can we accelerate progress in Africa’s health care systems? By turning to startups, entrepreneurs and innovations in the healthcare space. Mobile technology is emerging as a powerful ally in medical innovation on the continent. As it continues to grow at an exponential rate, a vibrant mobile health — or mHealth — industry is blossoming.
Startups are emerging with one purpose in mind: to create technological solutions for healthcare professionals. The idea being “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.” as said by Ghandi.
So here are 5 startups shaking up how healthcare is delivered in Africa:
1) Access Mobile, Uganda – a platform that facilitates doctor-patient interaction through text messages and email via an app called Clinic Communicator.
2) Gifted Mom, Cameroon – a startup using low-cost technology to provide medical advice to women in rural areas.
3) U-Report, Zambia – a youth-centered program that provides confidential, free of charge, individualized and interactive counseling services on HIV and AIDS.
4) Medical Diagnostic, South Africa – a “rapid test” kit designed to diagnose malaria as well as the strain the patient is suffering from. It can also identify if the patient’s course of treatment is working effectively and using a blood sample, results can be offered in less than 30mins.
5) mPedigree, Ghana – a simple idea where codes are printed on prescription packaging enabling customers check its legitimacy by sending a text message. This ideas was borne out of a desire to crack down on counterfeit drugs and medicines in the marketplace.
For some, these solutions may not seem like a lot but for a continent without systems and even when systems exist, they’re largely broken, these solutions could mean the difference between life and death – particularly in rural areas.
Healthcare is largely affordable to individuals and households with a sizable financial income. Therefore, by leveraging mobile platforms, healthcare becomes more widely accessible especially to poorer households. This is extremely important if we’re to reduce the count of deaths caused by self diagnosis and treatment – a mishap that occurs because of lack of access to trained healthcare professionals.
These mhealth solutions though great, are by no means a panacea. We still need to work towards building a larger community of healthcare professionals as Africa is currently understaffed in this field with the World Health Organization (WHO) projecting a continuous shortage of healthcare professionals over the next few years. In the short run though, these online platforms breach the gap between the shortage and the count of patients seeking care – which is certainly a good thing!
Back home, accessing a healthcare facility isn’t always as simple as it should be. Particularly in rural areas, poor roads can turn a trip to the doctor into a days-long journey. As a result, several start-ups have launched initiatives designed to bring medical advances directly into the home — via a smartphone. The good news is that these medical advances are starting to gain traction and are slowly, but surely, changing the traditional mode of healthcare delivery – a shift that’s long overdue.