Health tech pins hope on Africa's pandemic shift to online care

When Loveth Metiboba's baby had diarrhoea, she worried that taking him to a clinic near her home in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, might expose them both to the

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In 2019 it expanded into Ghana, where the government enlisted it during lockdown in May to deliver coronavirus test samples, vaccines and protective clothing, such as gloves. “It became very handy during this pandemic where we needed to send samples quickly to testing centres,” Nsiah-Asare, health adviser to Ghana’s president said.

It is run by doctor Ngozi Onyia, who said she had signed up for a 150,000 naira ($394. 22) monthly subscription with Helium Health and that most of the clinic’s patients had opted for online consultations, referred to as telemedicine, within weeks of Nigeria’s first cases of the novel coronavirus.

Helium Health, a Nigerian company that specialises in digitising medical records, brought forward to February the launch of its online consultation platform, which had been planned for later in the year, to meet demand resulting from the pandemic.

Instead, the clinic, run by Nigerian health technology firm eHealth Africa, sent her a web browser link to hold a video chat with a doctor who diagnosed her son with a mild illness and prescribed medicine to avoid dehydration.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, who heads the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said automating the process would help authorities handle increased testing after the resumption of international flights from Sept. 5. “Almost everything we’re doing right now, from logistics to managing the outbreak itself, is being migrated into different technological platforms,” Ihekweazu said.

Data from San Francisco-based investment firm Partech showed venture capital investment in Africa’s health tech companies grew to $189 million in 2019 from around $20 million in both 2017 and 2018.

LAGOS (Reuters) – When Loveth Metiboba’s baby had diarrhoea, she worried that taking him to a clinic near her home in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, might expose them both to the coronavirus. “The idea of going to the clinic was very scary,” said Metiboba, a researcher for a charity.

Authorities in the capital Abuja contracted the charitable arm of eHealth Africa to roll out a system that alerts patients who test negative for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 with an automated text message.

Mukul Majmudar, chief executive of CureCompanion, which developed the online platform Metiboba used, said the Texas-based company had seen a 12-fold increase in business in Africa this year from 2019.

But the opportunities in Africa, where access to medical care is often restricted, are transformational and offer growth prospects to companies that provide online consultations and online sales of medicine.

Even before the pandemic, public health experts and investors saw the potential for telemedicine to help Africa cater for the needs of rapidly-expanding populations.

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