Monday, June 23
Kenya is rife with e-health solutions seeking to address varying challenges whether in the private or public sector. Many technologies are innovated every day, but it is almost impossible to know them as Kenya still lacks a local mechanism for tracking them.
All is not lost though. A Washington-based organisation known as the Centre for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) tracks e-health solutions from all over the world and can thus offer a glimpse of such technologies in Kenya.
Dr. Felix Olale, CEO of Excelsior Group — an organisation dealing with health technology finance — notes that Kenya’s performance on the e-health font, based on the CHMI statistics is impressive.
The country leads in Africa with regard to innovations captured by CHMI. Furthermore, it ranks second worldwide, rivaled only by India. The site comprises of over 1000 e-health innovations and about 200 are based in Kenya.
Experts note that this feat comes as no surprise. “The entrepreneurial energy here is great and this pushes people to be innovative,” Dr. Olale says. He adds that Kenya also boasts of a skilled human resource base that can provide labour to drive e-health enterprises.
However, beneath this success lies an even greater challenge. CHMI website notes that of all e-health innovations in the country, only 44 per cent have been scaled up. This means that close to 60 percent of technologies that could provide solutions to the country’s health problems die before their potential can be harnessed.
To address this challenge and accelerate the scaling up of e-health projects in the country, Dr. Olale says that entrepreneurs must focus on building products that make economic sense while meeting a true need in the market.
Examples here may include e-health technologies that aim at sorting out procurement challenges in hospitals. These technologies have been readily absorbed by the market as they prevent stock- outs of key commodities and drugs crucial to the management of various diseases.
In addition, Dr. Olale says, e-health innovations should take into account attitudes, behaviours and mindsets of end-users and other stakeholders in the value chain. If products seem complex and complicated to use, people tend to shun them despite their relevance.
According to Dr. Olale, entrepreneurs should equally make use of existing technology platforms as a base for building their products. Thus, people can create e-health applications for collecting public health information that will run on already available mobile phone software.
He encourages e-health entrepreneurs to avoid working in isolation.
“Building networks is extremely important for success. The people you meet can offer tips or provide linkages to various stakeholders along the e-health value chain,” says Dr. Olale. He adds that entrepreneurs should also ensure that projects are adequately financed beyond the initial stages.
Currently, 80 per cent of e-health projects in Kenya are donor funded and may thus easily die once funding stops. Dr. Olale says that government incentives and investments from the private sector could offer solutions to this challenge.
Excelsior Group recently published a novel report titled Less Innovation, More Scale which examined healthcare innovations across East Africa.
The report advocates for continuous monitoring of e-health projects to ensure that promising ones get a chance to succeed. It further notes that countries need to invest in building human capital. “No project is scalable without a training programme,” it stated.
This article was authored by Sarah Ooko and originally appeared on Business Daily Africa
The African Capacity Alliance (ACA) works in Kenya as a regional partner for CHMI. The ACA helps to identify health market innovators, and builds relationships between innovators and donors, investors, and others that can help innovative health programs grow and scale‐up their activities.