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14 startups join GE, Miller Centre healthymagination programme

GE and Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship have named the 14 African social enterprises selected to join the second cohort of their jointly-run healthymagination programme, which supports startups addressing maternal and/or child health.

The programme sees the chosen startups participate in a six-month, online accelerator programme with in-depth mentorship from Silicon Valley-based executives and local GE business leaders.

The aim of the programme is to improve and accelerate maternal and/or child health outcomes in Africa, by boosting the growth of local social enterprises active in this space.

The 14 startups selected for the programme are Afya Research Africa for its STONE HMIS solution; Cedars Diagnostics; doctHERsEarly ReachLiberian Energy NetworkMaternity FoundationMDaaS; MOBicure; NeopendaSevamobSisu Global HealthLiveWellSubQ Assist; and Totohealth Tanzania.

“Solving local health challenges calls for locally-adapted interventions and innovations, and social entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa are playing a major role in this regard,” said Robert Wells, executive director of healthymagination.

“The healthymagination mother and child programme will continue to provide them with mentorship and in-depth training, accelerating health innovation and furthering our goal to increase the quality, access and affordability of maternal and child health.”

Disrupt Africa reported the first cohort of the healthymagination programme graduated earlier this year.

How MDaaS Came To Be

Medical Devices as a Service, or MDaaS, is one of the the 2015 ALN Ventures companies. This post was written by MDaaS co-founder, Oluwasoga Oni.

MDaaS would have never have come into existence without my dad, a medical doctor with over 30 years of experience serving the people in his community. I grew up in a small town in Ondo State, Nigeria where my dad owns a private practice; that’s where the story of MDaaS begins.

Two years ago, I had become disillusioned with entrepreneurship and work felt repetitive and unexciting. I had just shut down my short film startup because there was no traction, and I felt that I wasn’t changing the world fundamentally the way my former self have envisioned I would. I knew I needed to make a change, so I quit my job to go back to grad school full-time at MIT and visited my dad in Nigeria for the first time in several years.

While I was there, my dad took me on a tour of his recently built hospital. There, I saw a room filled with broken-down medical equipment (ultrasound machines, ECGs, X-Rays) even though there were patients queued up for care, waiting to access some of these devices. That paradox haunted me and drove me to do more research on medical devices in Nigeria. I found out that rooms like the one in my father’s hospital could be found across the country. I heard stories of people traveling 5 hours to government diagnostic centers for a CT scan; I heard of those waiting for weeks for their turn on the MRI machine and of those that died while waiting to gain access to diagnostics machines.

Nigeria has one of the highest cancer death rates in the world, primarily because diagnoses often come too late and treatment options are limited. Lack of availability of high-quality medical equipment also plays a huge role in this. For example, the number of CT scanners per person in the US is around 35 scanners per million, but that number in Nigeria is about 0.26 scanners per million. In my native Ondo State there is only 1 CT scanner for 3.8 million people, and even that machine was broken down during my visit. Why are there not more devices available given both the need and demand for diagnostic equipment? Through my research, I found several explanations: devices are relatively expensive; good maintenance and repair services are difficult to find; there is lack of service support from the equipment manufacturers as most equipment is purchased second-hand; and, finally, there is the general perception and acceptance that “this is Nigeria, these devices won’t work here”.

My team and I think all these challenges can be overcome. We believe we can put in place the structures, partnerships, and technical know-how to tackle the inefficiency of Nigeria’s medical device industry. We are building a world-class medical device services company which will provide leasing, maintenance, and repair services. These services allow doctors and hospital administrators to focus on the patients while we at MDaaS takes care of their equipment needs.

I just moved back to Nigeria from Boston to begin executing this vision. When I told my African friends at home and abroad about moving back, most were surprised, and a few thought I was crazy. I was advised in some cases to wait until the time is right, until I have all the right connections. They might be right; maybe I am a little crazy after all. But, then again, maybe I am a drop in the ocean of change that is going to transform Africa, our beloved continent.

 

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Creating Affordable Access To High-Quality Medical Equipment In Nigeria

Sitting in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate course, Development Ventures, in the fall of 2014, Oluwasoga Oni was challenged to come up with a scalable solution to a problem affecting more than a billion people. Oluwasoga recalled visiting the hospital his father operates in a small town in Ondo State, Nigeria, just a few months earlier. During the hospital visit, he was surprised to see a pile of broken-down medical equipment rusting in the dust. His father, like many doctors across sub-Saharan Africa, struggles to afford high-quality medical equipment and instead settles for cheaper, substandard alternatives more prone to breakdowns. Furthermore, lack of trained biomedical technicians available in Nigeria means that when a device breaks down, it’s likely to stay that way. As a result, more than 40% of all medical equipment in developing countries like Nigeria is currently out of service.

MDaaS – Medical Devices as a Service

Committed to addressing these challenges, Oluwasoga, along with co-founders Genevieve Barnard, Joe McCord, and Opeyemi Ologun, launched MDaaS (Medical Devices as a Service) in early 2015. MDaaS provides a unique combination of high-quality refurbished medical equipment, diverse acquisition options, and maintenance and repair services to hospitals in Nigeria. By tapping into the secondary equipment marketplace of developed countries, MDaaS is able to reduce the equipment purchase price to as low as 30% of the cost of brand new equipment from top-tier manufacturers. And, by providing a structure for hospitals to obtain, finance, and support this equipment, MDaaS makes it easier for them to afford, and keep operational, the critical lifesaving tools they need to improve the health outcomes of all Nigerians.

One particular focus of MDaaS is to help lead the country’s transition from analog radiography to digital radiography machines. Currently, approximately 90% of the x-rays performed in Nigeria are analog and processed manually, despite the many benefits of using digital x-ray machines. Digital x-ray images are available immediately and can be easily edited or sent electronically by the internet to a physician at another location to read or make a diagnosis, while analog x-ray procedures require additional time for film development, produce lower resolution images, and are harder to share with other providers. They also expose the patients to more radiation, resulting in greater health risks.

MDaaS CEO and co-founder Oluwasoga Oni teaches a radiography technician how to use the newly-installed digital x-ray machine at Inland Medical Center in Ikare-Akoko, Nigeria. Photo Credit: Adebayo Rotilu of Twelve05 Photography.

Creating Affordable Access to High-Quality Medical Equipment in Nigeria

MDaaS works with independent equipment suppliers in the US and Europe to bring medical equipment to Nigeria, where they run quality checks and complete the installation at no cost to the customer. Each device includes one year of service support, with the option to purchase additional service contracts after the first year, and service and operating manuals.

In January 2016, MDaaS started a pilot with three hospitals in Ondo, Kogi and Lagos States. By the end of the year, they had doubled their customers, expanding to three more hospitals, and their revenue from the initial customers. MDaaS primarily targets private institutions, which serve up to 70% of the population and typically do not receive support from NGOs and the government. Enabling access to high-quality medical equipment changes how these hospitals operate. One hospital they helped transition from analog to digital radiography doubled the number of x-ray procedures done each week. Another purchased a C-arm, a surgical imaging device, and now completes an average of two spinal fusions every week using the device. MDaaS also offers ultrasound machines, patient monitoring systems, ventilators, and defibrillators (see the full portfolio here).

Oluwasoga tests out a patient monitor on a hospital staff member. Photo Credit: Adebayo Rotilu of Twelve05 Photography.

The MDaaS team has had to overcome several challenges in order to achieve this initial success, including navigating the country’s bureaucracy to obtain importation permits, foreign exchange difficulties, and hospital’s inability to pay, linked to Nigeria’s current recession. Additionally, they found that more education around medical devices would be helpful, such as clarifying the difference between “used” and “refurbished” devices.

What’s Next

Next, the team is focused on expanding their services throughout Nigeria, as well as launching a new leasing initiative by the end of next month. Leasing already exists in the country for consumer goods, such as cars and refrigerators, but does not currently exist for the medical device market. MDaaS is excited to partner with a progressive financing house, Rosabon Financial Services, to provide medical equipment leasing for the first time in Nigeria. Under this initiative, hospitals will be able to lease a device with the intent to purchase and generate revenue in the interim to pay off the loan.

“There’s a significant middle class in Nigeria, and many doctors are running profitable private practices,” Oluwasoga said. “At MDaaS, we are using a scalable for-profit business model to help overcome Nigeria’s medical equipment inequity.”

Oluwasoga in his home town of Ikare-Akoko, Nigeria. Photo Credit: Adebayo Rotilu of Twelve05 Photography.

Contact

MDaaS is in the process of raising money for their seed round of financing. For more information or to contact MDaaS, please view their website or email Oluwasoga at soga@mdaasnigeria.com.

 

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How One Company Is Transforming Healthcare in Nigeria

 

Imagine you are a medical doctor with a mid-sized practice in a rural American town. You’re looking to expand and improve your antenatal services by purchasing a new diagnostic device, an ultrasound machine. Your budget is limited and purchasing a brand new machine is far out of reach, so you head to a secondary medical equipment marketplace. In the United States, this marketplace will offer you slightly older models of brand name equipment, financing or leasing options should you require them, in addition to service maintenance contracts and access to experienced biomedical engineers to keep the equipment fully functioning. In the end, you will have saved anywhere between 40 to 70 percent of the funds that would have gone toward the price of the new equipment from an original equipment manufacturer (OEM). That is the power of the secondary market when it functions properly.

Many doctors in Nigeria and other African countries face the same challenges as our hypothetical US doctor when they seek to grow their clinic’s service offerings. However, without a robust, formalized secondary market in the healthcare sector, their equipment options are limited. The secondary market for medical devices in Nigeria is highly fragmented, mostly informal, and lacks the technical expertise to make refurbished equipment a reliable option for doctors. Many pieces of equipment in the marketplace are sold used and have not been properly refurbished and tested. Because of this, banks are extremely hesitant to offer loans for refurbished equipment. Similarly, many doctors share stories of faulty equipment that breaks down within a few months and of biomedical technicians who actually damage equipment rather than repairing it. This has led to a deep skepticism about refurbished equipment as well as the unfortunate problem of “equipment graveyards” common to many hospitals in developing countries.

The overall result is a market disconnect: patients seek vital diagnostics services from hospitals and clinics but are not able to receive them because tested, functioning equipment is not available at a price accessible to the doctor operating the clinic.

MDaaS (Medical Devices as a Service) is strengthening the Nigerian healthcare ecosystem by creating a scalable, trusted secondary marketplace to better connect medical equipment with the hospitals who need them. We provide high-quality, full-feature equipment at accessible prices and, perhaps most importantly, we share the responsibility of ownership with our customers.

MDaaS makes this happen by connecting the robust secondary equipment market in the US with flexible payment options for Nigerian hospital customers. We work closely with our customers throughout the entire process, from helping doctors identify the equipment that best fits their needs to training hospital staff. Additionally, MDaaS offers one year of included equipment maintenance following delivery, and offers maintenance packages on other equipment. Once hospitals have access to reliable equipment through leases and loans, they can confidently expand their services without heavy capital investments, leading to more critical healthcare provision to Nigerians who need it.

 

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20 Startups to know in the Nigerian Health Tech Space

Editor’s Note: The Future of Health Conference II is 23 days away!! As we at Nigeria Health Watch work to deliver this year’s conference themed “Health Meets Tech: From Innovation to Implementation,” it is only natural that we begin to take a look at the health tech space in Nigeria. Our guest contributor this week is Dr. Ikpeme Neto, Internal medicine physician turned digital health entrepreneur, who through his start-up ‘Wella Health’ is working on ways to provide cost-effective technological solutions to improve quality of health care and patient engagement in Africa.  He is the Editor of Digital Health Nigeria, and highlights 20 start-ups everyone should pay attention to in the health tech space. The article first ran in Digital Health Nigeria’s Medium Blog, and has been edited and re-published with permission.

 

There are phenomenal things going on in the tech startup space currently in Nigeria. Most recently, Andela, a talent accelerator founded in Nigeria and the U.S raised a big round of funding from the Chan Zuckerberg initiative. There have been similar fundraising and huge milestone successes in Fintech and other consumer tech startups.

The Nigerian health tech space on the other hand hasn’t received much attention from investors or the media. Some token mentions pop up now and again but nothing concrete. One may think that there aren’t startups doing much in the health space. My experience over the last two years as a health tech founder in Nigeria suggests otherwise. In that time I’ve come across more than a handful of startups doing great work in a difficult yet rewarding digital health space.

Here are 20 of many such startups I’ve come across.  I have categorized the startups by their primary targets; Information on what they do, channels and business models is drawn from the respective websites or social media accounts and my own inference. I’ve avoided companies that operate as consultancies to focus more on startups with specific products or services. This is what I found:

Category 1 — Startups targeting patients

1. Safermom
SaferMom addresses the high maternal and infant mortality crises in Nigeria. The platform works to deliver vital health information to new and expectant mothers using interactive, personalized and low cost mobile technologies, including SMS and voice calls in local languages.

Model  B2B/ Donor funding; Channels  SMS, web, mobile app; Follow them on Twitter

2. Omomi
Omomi helps parents keep their children healthy by enabling them easily monitor their children’s health. Parents can track their child’s immunization status, manage diarrhea at home with an interactive do-it-yourself platform and get access to doctors as well as other parents. It also provides a fun and very educating quiz which gives parents simple health education knowledge.

Model  B2C/ B2B/ Donor funding; Channels  web, android, SMS

3. Find-a-med

Find-a-med helps users find the closest health and medical centers around them with turn-by-turn directions to the centers using an Android app. Find-A-Med uses your location either via the web or mobile to find the nearest hospital, clinic, pharmacy, dental care, eye care, therapy, laboratory, etc.

Model  B2B; Channels  Android. Follow them on Twitter

4. Kangpe

Kangpe is an interactive platform which encourages users to ask real doctors their health questions and get answers in less than 10 minutes. It also has “Find a Doctor” and “Book Appointment” features, as well as health tips and featured questions.

Model  B2C/ B2B; Channels  android, web; Follow them on Twitter

5. Mobidoc

Mobidoc is a simple, mobile health consultation application for everyone. It is currently in pre-launch stage.

Model  B2C/ B2B; Channels  Mobile.

Category 2 — Startups targeting doctors/clinics/ hospitals

6. Meditell

Meditell enables hospitals assist their patients in taking their drugs through reminder alerts. The patient receives the exact time to take their medications via an automated voice call and a text message that is sent to his or her phone. The company was incubated at LeadPath Nigeria. *Meditell’s website is currently down.

 

Model  B2B; Channels  Web, SMS, Voice.  Follow them on Twitter

7. Medismarts

Medismarts Inc. develops and sells compelling, integrated healthcare software that uses advanced technologies to improve medical practice productivity for health insurance companies and hospitals. *Medismarts received funding from Sasware.

Model  B2B; Channels  Web

8. Apmis

Apmis is a means to capture, store, exchange and utilize healthcare data or information easily, transparently, and securely in an affordable cost effective manner using information technology – a service that is generally referred to as “Hospital Information Management Systems”, adapted to the Nigerian context.

Model  B2B; Channels  web

9. Medenhanz

Medenhanz is an accessible and affordable web-based and mobile application for point of care clinical reference and continuing medical education. The platform provides online continuous professional development (CPD), standard treatment guidelines, and a clinical reference database.

Model  B2B; Channels  web, mobile app. Follow them on Twitter

10. Dokilink

Dokilink is a professional social network for doctors. It provides an avenue to connect with classmates and colleagues, engage in conversations and earn rewards and influence corporate decision-makers by sharing insights.

Model  B2B; Channels  Web. Follow them on Twitter

11. Medical device as a service (MDAAS)

MDAAS provides hospitals with a range of medical device acquisition options and offers world-class service support with each device.

Follow them on Twitter

 

Category 3 — Startups targeting Pharmaceuticals

 

12. Drugstoc

Drugstoc helps licensed pharmacies, hospitals, and medical professionals order pharmaceutical products directly from officially accredited distributors. Drugstoc is powered by Integrahealth.

Model  B2B; Channels  Web

13. Medrep.ng

Medrep is a tool to help pharmaceutical sales representatives and pharmaceutical companies manage their sales teams.

Follow them on Facebook

14. Wella Health

Wella Health helps community pharmacies to keep dispensing records and use automated SMS messages to promote drug adherence and patient loyalty.

Model  B2B; Channels  web, android app, SMS. Follow them on Twitter

15. Gen-rx

Gen-rx is a pharmacy inventory application. The app is designed to detect drugs close to expiration date among drug stock, detect potential drug overdose before drug is dispensed to patients, and detect wrong drug combinations.

Model  B2B; Channels  Web

Category 4 — Startups that don’t fit in above

16. Healththink

Healththink is a big data analytics platform for Nigerian health data. It is currently in pre-launch stage

17. Lifebank

LifeBank is a platform that makes blood available when and where it is needed in Nigeria to save lives. The company mobilizes blood donations, takes inventory of all blood available in the country, and delivers blood to where it is needed.

Model  B2B; Channels  Mobile app; Follow them on Twitter

18. Redbank

Redbank is a service that helps hospitals and patients quickly and easily search and find safe blood in real time via SMS.

Model  B2B; Channels  SMS, android app; Follow them on Twitter

19. Ubenwa

Ubenwa is a platform application which analyses the frequency patterns in the cry of a new born baby in order to quickly diagnose birth asphyxia.

Model  B2B; Channels  mobile app

 20. Numa Health

Numa gives access to reliable high quality health information to help patients make the right healthcare decisions. The platform is in pre-launch stage.

Follow them on Twitter

Inspiration for putting this list together is from the guys at Nigeria Health Watch who are putting together the 2016 health tech conference. I wrote about the conference here. I hope all startups and techies interested in health make it to the conference on Sept. 22.

Further inspiration for this is from Steve Blank who advocates a collaborative learning process to aid founders in non-silicon valley ecosystems succeed: “Keep asking questions, and try to rough it into a framework…”

 

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“Medical Devices As A Service” (MDaaS) Wants To Transform Nigeria’s Healthcare System

Medical Devices As A Service (MDaaS) is seeking to transform Nigeria’s healthcare system by making medical devices available, accessible and affordable. The startup, according to its website, provides hospitals with a range of device acquisition options and offer world-class service support with each device.

The startup’s services include the following:

  • Direct Sales: It sells new and refurbished medical devices from leading brands such as GE, Philips, Siemens, etc.
  • Renting & leasing: Clients can also rent (short-term) or lease (longer-term) its medical devices.
  • Partnership: The startup provides its devices to hospitals who need them desperately but have low capital. The profit made from the devices is shared with the hospitals.

The company’s inventory cuts across the following equipment categories:

  • Ultrasounds
  • X-rays
  • Monitoring
  • Life Support
  • Medical furniture
  • Labs & Diagnostics

You can find a full list of the inventory here.

MDaaS is one of the the 2015 ALN Ventures companies.

Oluwasogo and Genevieve, two of the three Co-founders at MDaaS with the second place award at the 2015 PHN Health Innovation & Impact Investing Summit

Meet The Founders of MDaaS

The startup was founded by Oluwasoga Oni who has a Bachelors degree from Covenant University, Nigeria and two Masters Degree. He holds a Masters degree in Engineering and Management, System Design and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Other Co-founders include Genevieve Barnard and Joe McCord. Genevieve is a member of the Babson Social Innovation Lab while Joe is a graduate of MIT’s Supply Chain program.

The Case For MDAAS

In summary, Nigeria’s healthcare system is broken. No one probably knows this better than Oluwasoga Oni whose Dad is a Doctor with over 30 years experience. Oluwasoga made a case for his startup in this well written article.

Here are a few statistics from the article:

  • The number of CT scanners per person in the US is around 35 scanners per million, but that number in Nigeria is about 0.26 scanners per million.
  • In Ondo State there is only 1 CT scanner for 3.8 million people.
  • Nigeria has one of the highest cancer death rates in the world.

It will appear Oluwasoga sought to put it nicely when he mentioned these statistics. The situation on ground is even far more worrying. Here are some more statistics:

  • Number of Doctors in Nigeria is 39,210 i.e. about 1 doctor to 4400 Nigerians. The WHO standard is 1 doctor to 600 Nigerians.
  • Risk of Maternal Death is put at 1 in 18.
  • Infant Mortality rate is 75 out of every 1,000 births.

Many hospitals in Nigeria lack basic equipment because they simply cannot afford it. Government’s funding to the health sector is quite poor. Nigeria-trained doctors have been migrating in large numbers to the US, UK and Canada. About 3,567 of them migrated overseas in 2007. These three factors combined; inadequate funding, inadequate expertise and lack of basic equipment, contribute to the worrying statistics quoted above.

MDaaS’ Mission

MDaaS is taking on one of these challenges and it is laudable. Providing affordable and accessible medical equipment will go a long way in making a change in our healthcare system. While Oluwasoga and his team may not be able to solve all the problems, their services will definitely save more lives.

The health sector is one of the major areas startup founders and entrepreneurs can make considerable impact on society. With a good business model and a passion to create impact, founders will contribute to solving our country’s healthcare challenges. I wouldn’t end this article without mentioning some of the other health startups making a change in the country, they include LifeBankAPMISMaza, RedBankOneMedical etc. Did we miss out any great health startup? Do let us know in the comments section.

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THE LAST MILE: STARTUP GETS MEDICAL EQUIPMENT UP AND RUNNING IN AFRICA

Oluwasoga Oni tests a newly installed patient monitor on a hospital staff member in Ondo State, Nigeria

 

Oluwasoga Oni’s father, a doctor, delivered him at Inland Hospital in Ondo State, Nigeria more than 30 years ago.

Today, Oni, a graduate of MIT’s System Design and Management program, is delivering new and refurbished medical equipment to that same hospital through his startup, Medical Devices as a Service, or MDaaS.

While he was still an MIT student, Oni realized he could solve some critical problems for Nigerian hospitals in need of basic medical devices. “The challenges [in Nigeria] are the high cost of the equipment, the fact that there is little to no financing available for medical equipment, and the lack of skilled biomedical technicians to fix the equipment,” said Oni, who was a Legatum Fellow at MIT.

Charities often donate medical equipment to African hospitals, Oni said, but frequently, factors such as high temperatures and an unreliable electrical grid are not considered. The equipment is sometimes left at hospitals with no instructions on setup or maintenance, and ends up unused or broken within a few months. Meanwhile, in the United States, viable used medical equipment is abandoned in warehouses for years, in a kind of equipment purgatory, after hospitals upgrade to the latest models.

“There’s a huge inventory of equipment not being used in the United States and a serious shortage of quality medical equipment, and maintenance services in places like Nigeria,” said co-founder Genevieve Barnard, MBA ’18, who is also a Legatum Fellow and a dual-degree student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

The for-profit company, which is still in its pilot phase, aims to bridge this gap. The MDaaS team sources refurbished medical equipment in the United States, then targets small to medium-sized hospitals in Nigeria that need it. Although MDaaS occasionally identifies new equipment, the company mainly focuses on high-quality refurbished pieces because they are a better financial fit for most hospitals, Barnard said.

The Medical Devices as a Service team in Nigeria

The company works closely with doctors and hospitals to find out what they need before they look for equipment. The team does research to understand the conditions—such as power fluctuations or humidity levels—in each setting, and provides support when maintenance is needed. MDaaS handles the shipping and installation and then offers initial training on each piece of equipment. Customers receive one year of free pre-planned maintenance support through the company’s biomedical technicians.

MDaaS currently has five employees including Joe McCord, MEng ’15, who is focusing on supply chain logistics. As it grows, the company plans to hire more service technicians.

MDaaS will formally transition from the pilot phase to full operations in 2017.

 

Source

Making Medical Devices More Accessible, Affordable and Reliable

Soga Oni is the co-founder of Medical Devices as a Service, an African medical equipment services firm.

Knowledge@Wharton: Tell us about your company, MDaaS.

Soga Oni: MDaaS is an acronym for Medical Devices as a Service. We are a medical devices services organization whose mission/vision is to make medical devices more accessible and affordable in Nigeria and across the African continent. We do this by providing flexible acquisition options to hospitals. We also train biomedical technicians who service a full range of medical devices and make sure that the devices don’t break down.

Knowledge@Wharton: It sounds like there are two key functions. Part of it is the acquisition of medical devices and the other part is service and maintenance.

Oni: That is correct. I think one of the biggest challenges hospitals in Nigeria and all African countries face is, No. 1, medical devices are capital intensive. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of financing out there. No. 2 is the maintenance and repair of these devices. A lot of African countries, Nigeria included, lack skilled biomedical engineers who could service these devices. I know a doctor who bought a new US$50,000 machine that broke down in six months and they had to fly in someone from Korea to fix it. That shouldn’t happen. So that’s the problem we’re trying to solve.

Knowledge@Wharton: How long have you been in the business? What stage is your company in?

Oni: We are still early in the process. It’s been a one-year journey for me from ideation. This came originally because I visited my dad. He is a medical doctor and I visited his hospital. I saw the way he had this equipment, stuff that he just threw away. I worked with some of my classmates at MIT to look at the problem and I realized that this was a huge problem across the continent. I started working on it, eventually got some support from the African Leadership Network and decided to move back in February to launch in Nigeria.

“I know a doctor who bought a new $50,000 machine that broke down in six months and they had to fly in someone from Korea to fix it. That shouldn’t happen.”

Since February, it’s been setting up the processes I needed, doing more interviews with doctors to see what they really want. The idea evolved with me just talking to people, getting feedback. Right now we have a pilot; we’re in the process of shipping the devices in.

Knowledge@Wharton: Tell us a little bit about your background. You grew up in Nigeria?

Oni: I grew up in a small town, a few hours from Lagos. I spent most of my formative years there. Then did my college in Nigeria. After that, I went to the U.S. for a master’s degree. I worked for a few years as a software engineer in the U.S. And then I went through this midlife crisis: I wanted to move back and I wanted to know what I could do to help back home.

That led me to apply to MIT. I got in. I had studied systems engineering in Nigeria. That deals with big social technical problems. This is a big social technical problem. It has a technical component and a social component. That allowed me to see things from a bird’s eye view. It also enabled me to see how things work in the trenches. That made me want to contribute back.

Knowledge@Wharton: Was it an easy decision to come back?

Oni: In a lot of ways, I’m privileged because I still have my family back there. When I moved back originally, I got support from my family.

Knowledge@Wharton: Going back to the pilot that you’re doing now, what are the medical devices that you’re bringing to these hospitals?

Oni: We’re bringing about 12 devices of six different types. We had a conversation with them about what their needs are, what their requirements were and what they wanted. Then we made that decision to bring in those devices for them.

Knowledge@Wharton: When you look at the medical device industry, are you bringing in technology that exists in the Western countries or are you looking at some of the innovations that have been made where some of these technologies and devices have been adapted for the developing world at a much lower cost?

Oni: Our approach is we bring in technologies that are cheaper. We bring in X-ray devices and ultrasound equipment, for example, from the early 2000s. They are well maintained and refurbished. They cost about a tenth of what the new ones would cost. That’s our approach.

“This is a big social technical problem. It has a technical component and a social component.”

I think it’s interesting though, your question, because there’s been this approach to strip down devices and reposition them for Africa. That works in some cases, but a lot of hospitals, especially in growing cities like Lagos, want the good stuff. They don’t want the stripped-down version; they want all the features.

Knowledge@Wharton: Just to push back very gently, you don’t feel like you’re going to replicate a very high-cost medical system in Africa at a time when it’s running into problems in the West?

Oni: We will replicate what they have there. We will make ours in the end. We have to be realistic about these things. The devices that we’re bringing in are trade devices; they will be useful for the marketplace. What we’re also doing is training people on the ground. We’re not trying to bring people in from outside.

Hospitals will look at all the options. They’ll have to make the decisions themselves. We need more approaches to solve this problem. In the end, there’s a place in the market for people like me and also dirt-cheap Chinese products. It’s a huge, huge market.

Knowledge@Wharton: I’d love to hear about what you’ve been learning in the process of building this company over the past year, the major turning points and lessons for you.

Oni: I’ve learned a lot. Originally, I wanted to start a company that leases medical devices. But you need the ecosystem to support leasing. Until we have that ecosystem, leasing is just me giving you money. I would never be able to be sustainable.

Knowledge@Wharton: Let me make sure I understood that. Your first approach was to…

Oni: Lease the equipment. But we learned that big banks have a problem financing equipment, financing doctors. If you finance a car and don’t get paid, you can get the car and sell it. But even if the big bank gets an X-ray machine back, what do they do with it? There’s no second market to go to.

Knowledge@Wharton: At this stage in your early development, is MDaaS all Soga Oni, or do you have a team working with you?

Oni: I’ve had teams. I’ve had people work with me throughout the whole process. But we finished in May from MIT. Now [my friends] have got good jobs all around the world.…

Knowledge@Wharton: Where do you hope to be in a year?

Oni: I want the pilot to be successful. By that time, I would have moved out to all the hospitals across the country. One of the big components of my organization is the training — biomedical training. So I’ve asked for a set of biomedical technicians good to go, ready to work.

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Homegrown innovations boost health care delivery

Top on the list of five major breakthroughs is a Nigeria-made malaria test, Urine Malaria Test (UMT), that can diagnose the disease within 25 minutes using just drops of patients urine sample.

The Nigeria Healthcare Innovation Marketplace (NHIM) has crystallized army of healthcare professionals, scientists, developers, programmers, systems modellers and data crunchers. Consequently, the country has made giant strides in scientific innovations tailored towards improving health care delivery. Top on the list of five major breakthroughs is a Nigeria-made malaria test, Urine Malaria Test (UMT), that can diagnose the disease within 25 minutes using just drops of patients urine sample.

Towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is a global revolution about how to design and deliver healthcare services especially to those who need it most.

The Nigeria Healthcare Innovation Marketplace (NHIM) has crystallized army of healthcare professionals, scientists, developers, programmers, systems modellers and data crunchers.

Consequently, the country has made giant strides in scientific innovations tailored towards improving health care delivery.

Top on the list of five major breakthroughs is a Nigeria-made malaria test, Urine Malaria Test (UMT), that can diagnose the disease within 25 minutes using just drops of patients urine sample.

The innovations were made public, last week, in Lagos, at the 2015 Nigeria Health Innovation & Impact Investment Summit.

The Nigeria Health and Innovation Impact Investment Summit event was tagged “2015 Disrupting Healthcare, Saving Lives.”

Developed by Fyodor Biotechnologies, UMT is endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and approved by the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

The UMT won the inaugural 2015 Health Innovation Challenge Awards. The Awards was instituted by the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) through the NHIM.

Another major innovation is the Medical Devices as a Service (MDaaS). MDaaS is a company that makes medical devices available, accessible and affordable to underserved health facilities across Nigeria. MDaaS provides hospitals with a range of device acquisition options and offer world-class service support with each device. MDaaS offers three different device acquisition options to fit a range of budgets; direct sales, rent lease, and via equipment placement partnerships.

MDaaS, in September 2015, launched its pilot in Nigeria with three private primary healthcare centres (PHCs). MDaaS is supplying the pilot PHCs with over 10 devices through direct sales and is providing routine maintenance and repair services included in the cost of the devices. The equipment supplied includes: ultrasounds; X-rays; patient monitors; ventilators; and defibrillators. The company also has a team of world-class technicians who ensure that devices remain safe and operational at all times.

MDaaS performs regular preplanned maintenance on the equipment; trains hospital staff on how to operate equipment and troubleshoot minor problems; and provides a 24-hour customer line. MDaaS is also building the capacity of a critical mass of medical equipment technicians through its two year fellowship training programme.

Next is e-Heal (Electronic Health Education in Any Language).

Until now, most families in Nigeria have not had access to adequate health messages in their local languages, on overall nutrition, hygiene and good healthcare practices before, during and after childbirth. Where adequate literature is available, low literacy levels prevent families from being able to read and understand the information and education material.

E-Heal was created as a sustainable and persuasive means to improve health education in Nigeria. It is a colourfully illustrated and interactive e-Heal kits distributed to rural communities in Nigeria enable their girls and women of childbearing age get relevant antenatal and postnatal care information in languages they understand.

The kits use a combination of graphics, audio technology and solar power packaged into an interactive messaging book that features appropriate health practices, for instance, infant and young feeding practices. Families including those who have no education at all can use the Mavis pen to touch on a graphic and hear, in audio, what the graphic represents.

Another novel innovation is the Mobile Health Insurance Programme (mHealth) platform by Salt & Einstein MTS is designed to administer social and affordable health insurance plans to all mobile network subscribers in Nigeria thus allowing the entire Nigeria populace to enjoy easier, cost effective and efficient access to basic and qualitative healthcare services. The service is accessible via any mobile phone and the web.

mHealth caters for “Those Who Can Pay” through granulated contribution and those who cannot pay through the AdoptionTree model which allows the high net-worth individuals, philanthropists, corporates, donor agencies and foreign governments adopt truly vulnerable Nigerians by paying their health insurance premiums.

Health innovation caters for the three social-economic strata in Nigeria especially the middle and the low income earners.

Yet another one is Omoni, the easy-to-use android-based application, is a low-cost platform for pregnant mothers to monitor their health and that of their unborn babies. Through health and growth monitoring of children till age five, Omoni seeks to save lives and reduce infant mortality in critical early years. Omoni covers all the aspects of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Childhood survival strategies, which include: growth monitoring, oral rehydration therapy, breastfeeding, immunization, and female education, family planning and food supplementation.

The application allows for easy monitoring of children’s growth and nutritional status, reminding parents of routine immunization visits, providing a repository of very vital health information, as well as helping them handle some common childhood ailments.

Meanwhile, the Flodor UMT disrupts the existing test model by addressing the urgent healthcare needs of people and providing practical solutions to issues affecting patient care on an individual level, and systemic level. UMT detects HRP2 proteins or fragments thereof shed in the urine of febrile patients based on a novel recombinant antibody technology. The overall performance of the UMT is equivalent to that of the Binax NOW blood test, the only malaria rapid test approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The award given to Fyodor UMT comes with a grant of $100,000 and enrollment in the accelerated programme of the NHIM.

Meanwhile, the activation of the PHN was formally endorsed by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Mr. Bill Gates, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Mr. Jim Ovia, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Mrs. Sola David Borha and other corporate leaders in Nigeria to mobilize the broader business and corporate community as well as the private health sector towards a multi-sectoral coalition to improving health outcomes.

It has been shown that the private sector has the potential to expand the access to health services, improve quality of care and complement the public sector’s efforts in addressing health system challenges in the country.

Co-Chair of PHN and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, said: “The innovators are not making money but they are contributing to saving lives and improving society. We will give them all the support and definitely they will be making money in the future.”

Chief Executive Officer of PHN, Dr. Muntaq Umar-Sadiq said: “It is important to use innovative platforms to improve health. Despite millions of dollars invested in healthcare we are not seeing the result. So we need bold and innovative approach to improve our health indices.”

He said Summit is to build on the gains of previous Private Sector Health Summits and bridge the gap between spurring disruptive innovations, shaping health markets and attracting innovative financing for scaling up promising healthcare innovations.

Umar-Sadiq said various players in the country including PHN, Health Strategy and Delivery Foundation (HSDF), Flint Atlantic Capital, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and others are already converging a market for healthcare social enterprise and impact investment capital. “For example, the Nigeria Health Innovation Marketplace has curated a pipeline of 42 innovations representing four archetypes of healthcare innovations including; franchising and innovations in service delivery, product specialization, technology enablers and local manufacturers of life saving commodities,” Umar-Sadiq said.

He said the Health Innovation and Impact Investment Summit is to showcase a portfolio of service delivery innovations aimed at addressing market failures and supporting improvement in maternal, children’s and adolescents’ health; and develop knowledge products and market insights from impact investors and innovators within the ecosystem who are at the frontier of making transformative change in the health sector.

Chair of the NHIM panel of analysts that selected the winners, and CEO of ACCESS Bank, Herbert Wigwe, said: “This is a celebration of the future of healthcare in Nigeria. To celebrate people who have come up with very bright ideas on how to change healthcare in Nigeria.

“There were 327 entries but 42 qualified and went to the Boot Camp. After rigorous examinations it was trimmed down to 12 innovations. Thereafter it was reduced to five innovations that will be given grants today. This was based on expert advice that these innovations will succeed and save lives.”

Meanwhile, the first runner up award went to MDaaS with a cash grant of $50,000 in addition to participate in the accelerated NHIM programme.

The second runner up award went to e-Heal with a grant of $30,000 and participation in the accelerated NHIM programme.

The fourth and fifth position went to mHealth and Omoni with cash grants of $20,000 each.

Umar-Sadiq said: “The transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provides a compelling opportunity for Nigeria to distil lessons from its MDGs experience, reshape its aspirations and ensure a pathway to universal health coverage that provides quality healthcare for all Nigerians.

“Despite some incremental change, decades of investment in the health system have achieved modest and mixed results. Current health programs are inadequate and necessitate bold and innovative approaches and complementary partnerships to disrupt the poor health outcomes and promote well-being for all by 2030.

“The private sector, in its multiple dimensions including large companies, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs), private providers, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and social enterprises, is an essential actor in catalyzing, promoting and investing in innovative approaches and social enterprises. The private sector also has distinctive assets, broad reach, capabilities and capital to offer the health system; ranging from management capabilities, innovative financing, mobile technology to supply chain and logistics infrastructure. Indeed, several African countries have ridden a wave of locally appropriate private sector driven innovations to accelerate progress and expand access to quality health services – especially for the poor.

“As a first step, the Inaugural Private Sector Health Summit convened in 2012 outlined; fiscal policy, regulatory and access to capital reforms to unlock the market potential of the health sector and, catalyzed the emergence of the PHN as a country owned platform to mobilize the private sector to improve health outcomes through innovation.

 

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