Four years ago, Mike Macharia was going about his day’s activities when he realised he was nose bleeding, prompting him to call his doctor.
As it turns out, the doctor was engaged elsewhere and therefore unavailable. Instead, he sent a lab technician to collect blood samples, and within three hours, the results had been transmitted. The diagnosis was made and medicine prescribed, Macharia bought medicine from a nearby pharmacy.
This high level of convenience applied a week later when his son fell sick while on the way to school.
“Normally, it would take a whole morning to go to the hospital and wait in line to get a booking. That’s when I realised that everything was in place: the healthcare providers and the FinTech platforms,” says Macharia.
According to him, what lacked was a technology-driven platform to put everything together, and connect the doctors, labs, patient records and payment platforms. This is what led to Ponea Health Africa, a platform that provides an online healthcare marketplace to offer convenience, options and lower costs of healthcare to people living in urban areas.
Together with his business partner, Akshay Shah, who is also the chairman of Kenya Extended Producer Responsibility Organisation (KEPRO), Macharia went on to mobilise money to actualise the idea. Based on their previous experiences in the technology field, coming up with the right framework easily fell into place.
The application is available on the Google App store, Apple App store, as well as Safaricom platform.
Once a patient logs into the platform, they are able to consult a doctor of their choice from the list of options provided. This also allows the patient to consider a number of factors before making a choice. These include the most affordable or the most experienced since this kind of data is available.
It also enables the patient to select a laboratory of their choice to carry out tests, which are based on the doctor’s recommendation. The patient also is able to buy medicine based on the prescription made by the doctor.
“You’re provided with an option of picking medicine from the nearest pharmacy or delivery by a rider for convenience” he adds.
He notes that a big percentage of healthcare providers in the country have made it so that one has to pay huge sums of money to get quality healthcare.
“There’s a lack of transparency in pricing by most of these facilities. Expensive healthcare does not translate to quality healthcare. There has been unnecessary ambiguity in healthcare procedures,” argues Macharia.
He explains that the lack of transparency is clearly seen when facilities simply give you a list of services and what one is paying for, yet most patients don’t actually understand what they are paying for.
“Most people can’t tell you off-head how much it costs to test a simple illness such as malaria because of the varying market prices, since every institution gives a different figure and it is not public knowledge,” he adds.
Besides providing this kind of knowledge, this platform also offers convenience as one does not have to queue in a hospital for long hours.
“The reason healthcare is expensive is that we take too long before we seek treatment. If you detect malaria within two days, the cost for treatment is much cheaper compared to treatment after 20 days,” he points out.
Macharia adds that through this, telemedicine, which is now applicable in many parts of the world, has been proven effective.
“You are now able to communicate with your physician without having to visit the hospital physically,” he says, adding that for illnesses where people fear stigmatisation such as HIV/Aids, patients can be tested in the comfort of their homes. It is also efficient for those seeking mental health support.
“This platform is also an enabler of a gig economy because doctors can offer consultation from the comfort of their location,” he adds.
And by selling medicine based on prescription, it reduces the chance of drug resistance due to over-the-counter self-medication, while encouraging more preventive health care as opposed to curative care.
The platform is also an earning platform for manufacturers of medicine, those that sell medical equipment, as well as service providers such as ambulances.
“Our biggest competitive advantage is enabling providers to have visibility on our platform, simplifying their customer interaction ecosystem, and giving the customer control to decide where they want to go based on price, the financing model they use to pay, location, service and the convenience level they want as a patient,” explains the businessman.
The company has also come up with a fully equipped co-working space for health practitioners who can’t afford to set up their own private clinics. The spaces are used by a wide range of registered providers who include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and psychologists.
A percentage of what they earn is retained by the company as payment for rent and maintenance of the facility.
Worth noting is that the system has also incorporated an online wallet for companies and corporates which acts as an alternative to insurance covers, at affordable prices.
As opposed to medical insurance covers, this promotes high levels of responsibility amongst the beneficiaries as they have an option of applying for the most affordable in the list of services on the platform.