Ruth Kamau, Founder and CEO of Beyond Borders Medtours
How did the idea for the company come about?
I worked for two years in a medical travel company where we only dealt with a particular hospital. I could see the frustration of patients because of out limited choice of hospitals.
Later when the company folded up in 2016, I decided to continue with the business on my own; I went for a business trip to India and visited various hospitals in New Delhi, Ahmadabad and Mumbai. I registered as a company upon return and hired relevant staff and we have been growing ever since.
Tell us briefly about your upbringing
I am the last born in a family of two brothers and three sisters. My mother has been a businesswoman all through while my dad is a retired soldier.
I attended primary school in Dagoretti South, Nairobi, and high school in Kajiado county. For higher education I took Diploma course in Law and later Human Resource Management.
Is working in the medical field a childhood dream come true?
As a little girl I wanted to become a lawyer and the first woman president in Kenya! I did not make the cut to join university so I opted to study for a Diploma in Law with the aim of qualifying for the degree programme.
Afterwards I got a job with a leading law firm where I worked closely with the lawyers in the information/library department. My interaction with the lawyers changed my perception about Law and I dropped that idea in favour of a career in Administration and HR. I have since worked in various companies in Administration.
I still do administrative work. As for being the first female president in Kenya, that’s water under the bridge now! My perception of politics has since changed and it no longer interests me.
Did you have role models in your childhood?
My mother and my elder brother Njoroge. My mother for her resilience, industrious nature and never die spirit. She rose to be what she is today against all odds. My brother for his intelligence, creativity, generosity and industriousness. I still look up to them.
Are you living your life’s purpose?
Until recently I didn’t know what my life purpose was. This however changed when I joined a Masterclass on International Living by John C Maxwell conducted by Coach Gavin Oyas. I have learnt to be intentional in everything I do every day. I am passionate about health and in particular mental health.
Are you married?
Yes, I am married with two children – a boy and a girl.
How many people have you helped to get treatment abroad (and locally)?
So far we have assisted 19 patients travel abroad mainly to India and Israel. For inbound travel we have assisted residents of other East African countries access treatment in Kenya mainly from Uganda and Rwanda.
We have also partnered with various international hospitals who routinely visit Kenya to conduct various medical camps in different parts of the country. We recently had one such camp in February where patients in Nairobi, Eldoret and Mombasa were screened and treated by consultants from India.
We also advise patients on any upcoming medical screening or health related events.
Explain a typical day in your line of work
I get to the office at 8 am; I check on my emails, follow up on current patient enquiries, check our social media pages, work on marketing campaigns, read on at least one health issue and attend networking events from time to time. I also make sure I call at least one prospective business partner a day, the idea is to make each day a deal making day.
What’s the process of connecting patients to medical facilities like?
Once a patient contacts us;
1. We provide them with information about their medical condition, appropriate mode of treatment, estimated costs and other relevant information to help them make an informed choice regarding their medical care,
2. Design their medical travel (i.e arrange for visa, flights, insurance, travel, stay and other logistics),
3.The patient departs for treatment,
4. Treatment commences,
5. Patient can opt for local tourism if they are well enough and the doctor okays it,
6. Patient returns to Kenya where we continue to follow up on their progress,
What are the advantages for patients who go through a firm like yours?
We’re here to assist you before, during and after your medical travel. We co-ordinate all aspects of a patient’s medical travel from choosing the right hospital, doctor, getting cost estimates, travel and stay and other logistics. We’ll simplify your medical travel.
What do you think should be done to make Kenya a preferred destination for “medical tourism” Or to make it the first choice for Kenyans with chronic ailments?
Increase capacity in terms of building new hospitals that are fully equipped with modern facilities and staff, and training more medical personnel. The government should also create an enabling environment for private companies specialising in inbound medical tourism.
Where is your company located?
We are located at The Riverfront, 4th floor, Riverside Drive in Westlands, Nairobi.
What would be your advice to Kenyans on seeking medical assistance abroad and on deciding where to seek medical care?
They should consider the following;
1. Time: Some patients prefer to travel abroad to get out of pain or to halt a deteriorating condition rather than to suffer the anxiety and frustration of waiting for a far-future appointment and other medical uncertainties,
2. Type of treatment: Some types of treatment are not readily available like stem cell therapy,
3. Cost of treatment: The single biggest reason why patients travel to other countries for medical treatment is the opportunity to save money.
4. Advances in technology have improved medical investigations, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, which were once considered untreatable. Such services may not be readily available in Kenya.
Where do you see yourself and the company in 10 years?
To have established ourselves as a leading medical travel agency for both inbound and outbound medical tourism. To also have started a foundation for mental health as part of our CSR.
Any disappointments in your work so far?
Yes, there are some hostilities and misconceptions about medical tourism from some players in the health sector. Also, losing patients because of late diagnosis, Kenyans generally seek medical treatment when it is too late. Our aim is to raise awareness on the need for early screening and health checkups so that illnesses are identified and dealt with in their early stages.