Medical records at a touch of an app? Q&A with CenHealth’s founder

"We live in a connected world and wanted to create an easy to use, accessible platform which allows anyone to keep their medical history in one place," says Joel Ugborogho, CenHealth’s co-founder and CEO.

“We live in a connected world and I wanted to create an easy-to-use, accessible platform which allows anyone to keep their medical history in one place,” says Joel Ugborogho, CenHealth’s co-founder and CEO.

South Africa-based CenHealth is a new start-up offering individuals an online platform to electronically store their health records and medical history – from lab results to prescriptions to X-rays. It also makes use of a mobile app, allowing users quick and easy access to all their important health information, via their phones.

Launched in January, CenHeath’s cloud-based record keeping system is free to individuals, but makes use of a subscription model for additional value-based products and services. The health start-up is also in the process of launching its corporate wellness version where companies can subscribe to allow employees access to the platform, with the aim of promoting health initiatives and minimising sick days.

How we made it in Africa talks to CenHealth’s co-founder and CEO, Joel Ugborogho, about the inspiration behind launching the company, how it works, and the potential he sees for the platform across Africa

What problem are you hoping to address in the medical and health industry?

We live in an increasingly global world, and the days of having one doctor your whole life are gone, therefore our medical histories are scattered across hospitals and doctors in different towns, cities and even countries. Trying to remember your entire medical history when you visit a new doctor or are travelling is tedious, time consuming and it is next to impossible to be accurate. This missing link opens the public to misdiagnosis, potentially dangerous drug interactions and other medical mistakes.

In this day and age where technology has entered the personal domain, it just made more sense to use it as a solution to this problem. We noted how much more control people have over their finances with the advent of online and mobile banking. Why not have similar access and control over your health data? Research shows that once people have clearer insights into their health, they are able to make better decisions, spot warning signs and provide doctors with far better information about themselves and their families.

So what is CenHealth’s solution?

We live in a connected world and wanted to create an easy-to-use, accessible platform which allows anyone to keep their medical history in one place, without having to seek permission from another source like a doctor or other health practitioners.

We also saw the opportunity to make the patient part of the movement away from paper records to digital records. Some of the benefits of electronic records are they are easier to compile, errors are easier to spot and have a longer life span because they are not as vulnerable to being lost or damaged. Patients can now upload their scans, X-rays and other images which are often difficult to store safely.

Do doctors upload the information, or do patients? And can doctors access this information?

Presently, this is a user-driven platform. Users upload their information which they can request from their doctors. Patients can then relay this information to their [any new] doctor or any other medical practitioner. We will allow information exchange with doctors at a later stage.

How secure is patient’s medical information on the system?

Patient/user information is secure on our system. We implemented a firewalled cloud solution, with data encryption and anti-malware in place. This ensures that in addition to the security steps our users make in terms of using their chosen passwords and the use of OTP (One Time Passwords), their data is safe.

And we are not sharing data with health insurance companies or any other [third party]… Everybody else is blocked out, and the only person in full control is the owner of the information, the user – and they can share with their doctor whatever information they want to share.

What challenges did you face with launching? Were there any regulations that proved restrictive?

We have not faced very many challenges with the launch, and we decided to grow step by step. The regulatory framework has not been prohibitive as the system is user driven and sharing only occurs when the user chooses to do so. As our products and services grow, we may encounter some challenges, so we keep abreast of all developments in the legislative environments we operate in.

How did you finance the company?

The company has been self-financed, from savings and other earnings.

Where would you like to see the business in five years?

We would like to see the business in multiple markets, making a real difference in people’s lives. The keeping of health records in Africa is especially weak, and we see an opportunity to help the continent leapfrog in this area, using the massive growth of smart devices already in people’s hands and booming internet access to drive this growth.

Given the massive burdens on health systems, which are often unable to make the shift to digital because they don’t have the funds to provide care and introduce systems at the same time, it makes sense to find solutions that make the patient a more active player in keeping their health history.