The prevalence of COVID-19 has shown how unprepared the world can be against a global outbreak.
Every country in the heat of the pandemic underwent one form of crisis or another when the follow up to the disease outbreak unfolded, leaving health officials to compete for the scarce medical supplies available.
African governments especially those in the very low-income countries were seeking ways to avoid another wave of a potential epidemic while carefully learning about what has been working in other countries regarding testing and availability of medical equipment and facilities.
Even when it appears that funding isn’t the challenge, many African countries found it difficult to obtain the required medical support.
Asides from the recent global pandemic, access to medical supply generally in Africa has been a huge challenge, however, the continent’s innovative ecosystem isn’t resting its oars in seeking out solutions to this problem.
Kenyan health tech startup, Ilara Health is addressing this social need by providing essential diagnostic support and impactful software products to patients and providers across peri-urban sub-Saharan Africa, who currently are unable to access these basic life-saving tools.
We spoke to Emilian Popa, CEO/Co-founder, Ilara Health who took us through the modules of the health tech startup.
Speaking on why the health tech startup was founded, Emilian explained that Ilara Health was established to address the diagnostic gap in sub-Saharan Africa.
Indications show that 70% of people require accurate diagnostic tests before receiving the required, curative treatment, while over 500 million people across sub-Saharan Africa struggle to access or afford even a simple blood test.
“At Ilara Health, we believe that every patient should have access to accurate, affordable diagnosis for their healthcare needs.”
Accurate diagnosis is the first step to quality healthcare, integral to good health and well-being, and an essential part of every patient’s journey.
We work to solve the problem of low availability and under-utilization of life-saving diagnostic services in Sub-Saharan Africa by enabling providers and patients to access diagnostic technologies previously unreachable.”
Ilara Health procures and avails tech-powered diagnostics to providers through flexible financing options at low up-front costs.
Providers can access diabetic marker analyzers, portable EKGs, point-of-care ultrasound devices, and soon visual acuity tools, respiratory devices, blood test devices, and cancer diagnostics.
Broader test range using FDA/ACE-approved devices previously not available
Benefits for patients
Faster turnaround time
Better quality care
On the affordability of the startup’s offering, Emilian explained that the Ilara Health model allows providers to quickly adopt the startup devices.
Emilian further noted that providers pay either fixed, monthly subscription fees or variable payments based on device type and usage which guarantees that providers can bypass initial costly investments and use this tech at a fraction of the cost.
“Our diagnostics come with insurance for continued utility and an opportunity to upgrade. Furthermore, our devices are a fraction of the cost of comparable legacy devices, and come with custom software for improved disease detection, patient help tips, and other disease management tools.”
“For example, our ultrasound device, the ButterflyIQ is 25% less of the cost of traditional ultrasound.”, Emilian added
Ilara Health’s response during COVID-19
COVID-19 took a significant toll on the entire world and to date, we haven’t yet recovered from its shocking event, as a health-tech startup, we asked Emilian how Ilara Health responded to the heat.
Kenya saw its first COVID-19 case in early March. According to the founder, Ilara Health quickly created a self-assessment tool that could be deployed on behalf of clinics to their customers.
The tool helps to screen patients, to minimize the patient influx to hospitals for those who showcase the related comprehensive symptoms.
By proactively contacting patients, clinics can gain knowledge on how many possible COVID-19 cases exist in their area, allowing them to prepare their facilities and implement a strategy to treat such patients.
The tool covid-19.ilarahealth.com/assessment was deployed across several channels including web, SMS, Facebook Messenger, and Whatsapp.
“Alongside the assessment, we built a simple informational landing page for patients to access general information and tips here.”
“Our diagnostics package includes clinic-based triage tools for symptom checking including single-use thermometers, digital respiratory infection tools like ResApp that can classify upper vs. lower chest infections, lung ultrasound tools like the portable ButterflyIQ which detects imaging features typical of patients presenting suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Moreover, we have implemented a telemedicine solution, linking facility staff to full-time sonographers for assisted readings.”
Ilara Health on-boarded its first healthcare provider in August 2019 and since then the startup has expanded its presence across peri-urban Kenya.
The health tech startup has partnered with over 130 healthcare providers who have carried out over 5500 diagnostic tests that have reached over 1500 patients.
By Q4 2020, Ilara targets to reach 200 Kenyan facilities, and 5 key priority health areas, while expanding its services to 2,000 similar healthcare outlets in Uganda and Ethiopia serving an average of 10,000 patients annually.