The health ecosystem in Kenya, like many other sectors faces its own unique challenges more so when trying to build a technology based business that addresses the needs of this particular vertical. Having been involved in a number of initiatives in this space, I have experienced firsthand some of these stumbling blocks and have thought through some possible steps to manage them.
The first challenge is our socialization, where deduce from an early age not to interact openly on matters health unless and until it is necessary; often times when we are ill and in need of urgent medical intervention. Mitigating this negative socialization would go a long way in increasing acceptance of the technological innovations that are consumer facing, ranging from those that disseminate information, those that track treatments and interventions, to the medical devices that constantly monitor well being, thus allowing them to scale to levels that will unlock profitability.
In the larger scheme of things, legislation and policy is important to support any worthwhile uptake of innovative services. This is simply because the health of a nation should be the prerogative of any government , with adoption and sensitization much easier with a push from the top. While some may differ with this view, in my opinion, elements like data legislation, standards for apps or medical devices, standards for electronic medical records must be developed and adopted to provide a spine for innovation. The KNH ICT Masterplan a seventy micro project plan that will take the form of pubic private partnerships with a total estimated cost of USD 50 million is the deployment to watch.
Health is like geography, very broad and the tech opportunity lies in the niche. When the entire ecosystem is mapped, it is impossible to be the singular stand alone defacto platform. One could choose to specialize in data security or messaging for the health sector or mobile application development aligned to certain prescribed standards, or simply tech support for the current and new hospitals and facilities being created – having a thorough understanding of what has been deployed , or is being deployed inline with the ict health masterplan.
Patience is key if looking to tap profit in healthcare solution provision; it is a long game, but companies and start-ups can serve a ready B2B market as the larger opportunity for the mass market opens up. Business model innovation is critical as well. An technology play does not mean that you have to be involved in the direct delivery of services to the patient; it could be via proxy on a bundled service offered by a larger entity with both access to capital to push for adoption as well as direct market access.