The problem: In a world where fear of the novel coronavirus has prompted greater social distancing, previously sceptical consumers are suddenly embracing technology when it comes to healthcare.
The opportunity: It is an opportune moment for e-medicine and telehealth providers to step up to the plate. In Kenya, specifically, opportunities abound, says Isis Nyong’o Madison, CEO at Bliss Group. The company was recently formed after the merger of Nyongo’o Madison’s MumsVillage, a Kenyan mother and baby care community and e-commerce platform, and BabyBliss in Nigeria, a one-stop-shop for expectant moms in that market.
“I think the time for telemedicine has finally come,” says Nyong’o Madison. “People have been tinkering away at this forever, but Covid-19 has presented a new reality.”
Nyong’o Madison’s MumsVillage digital platform has been creating localised health content for Kenyan consumers since she founded the company in 2015. Over the years, MumsVillage has experimented with various channels to deliver the content where its users deemed it most appropriate and convenient. The MumsVillage content has been published and distributed on its website (accessible through desktop and mobile); packaged as video material through a regular digital chat programme called the MumsVillage Show; delivered via text chats with experts; and on WhatsApp groups where communities are formed around common interests.
“We’ve had a lot of exposure on how you can host health chats with experts. We have seen how much information can be given over text, alone or combined with video. I think the opportunity in the telehealth space is huge and it is a vehicle that can really improve public health,” she says.
Potential challenges: Expensive data or high access costs could be an obstacle, but Nyong’o Madison states that the government in Kenya has been doing considerable work to lower costs until it ultimately reaches a negligible level.
“When it becomes so affordable that any person, everywhere, can access the information anywhere – that’s when the opportunities will really come alive. Can you imagine a doctor of health professional doing a health talk live on Facebook to thousands of people? For example, a maternity lecture, where previously you would have had to go to the local clinic,” she says.
Who is taking advantage of this opportunity? There are various players and startups already operating in the telehealth space in Kenya and their services have been employed to differing degrees in the fight against Covid-19.
In March 2020, Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi opened its first telemedicine technology centre for coronavirus detection. In May, Telkom, in partnership with Valentis Health, a doctor-founded healthcare service providing telemedicine, launched a medical consultancy service called Dial Daktari. Other platforms include: Nadia, a personalised automated health companion app; TeleAfya, which uses technology to link patients with doctors; and TIBU Health, a startup allowing patients to book doctors and clinical officers to come directly to their homes.
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