iSikCureCheaper and better healthcare for everyone
Kenyan healthcare isn’t bad – if you have the money to pay for it or are insured. Poor people generally have little access to quality medical care and specialised doctors, not to mention their struggle to pay for any of these services. The mobile phone app iSikCure is helping them overcome all of these obstacles. Read More
Kenyan healthcare isn’t bad – if you have the money to pay for it or are insured. Poor people have little access to quality medical care and specialised doctors, not to mention their struggle to pay for these services. The new mobile phone app iSikCure shall help them overcome these obstacles.
Falling ill is a huge risk for many people in rural Kenya, as they have little access to and cannot afford decent medical services. Let’s imagine a woman named Laura lives in a remote village and is suffering from cardiac disease. Her first obstacle is figuring out where to find specialist care. She will probably travel to the nearest dispensary or to an urban centre, but whether or not she is actually seen by a cardiologist there is questionable. That’s why many patients in Kenya receive incorrect treatment the first time they visit a doctor.
The next challenge Laura faces is financial. Treatment by a doctor usually costs the equivalent of about 5 US dollars, which many people can’t afford. In Kenya, the average monthly income in rural areas ranges from around 100 to 200 US dollars. Like most Kenyans, Laura doesn’t have a health insurance, so she might even opt not to visit a doctor at all, and instead go to the local nurse who only charges 1 USD, but doesn’t have the training to treat serious diseases.
iSikCure wants to protect patients from incorrect treatment and save them money.
And even if she goes to the doctor, more problems are likely to follow: If the doctor gives her a prescription for medication, chances are high that the pharmacy close by won’t have it in stock, may only have a poor quality version, or sell it at an excessively high price.
Moka Lantum, founder of iSikCure, tells us that this is a typical situation for about 1.5 million households in Kenya each month, when it comes to seeking and accessing healthcare. These dangerous shortcomings can put lives at risk, and Moka and his colleagues are determined to improve the situation. With iSikCure, they want to protect patients from incorrect treatment and save them money.
Hope for Laura
It offers hope for people like Laura, whose story could be fundamentally changed just by using the free app. Instead of traveling to the closest clinic, Laura could grab her mobile phone, open the app, and enter her symptoms, like “frequent dizziness”. The app then tells her the location of all heart specialists close to her and offers to make an appointment with the practitioner of her choice. Her phone displays a list of all doctors with their individual profiles, and she can look at their calendars and book a visit. This way Laura will probably get better treatment and won’t have to wait long hours when she reaches the clinic.
Furthermore, the appointment is cheaper for her when booked through the app. Every action she takes in the app gives her reward points (called MedPoints) she can use to lower the costs of the treatment. If she has been actively using the app and accessing different services, she may not have to pay more than 1 USD for the visit.
“iSikCure is a business that can really change lives.”
The app even helps improve access to medication. Laura’s doctor enters her prescription directly into the app instead of handing it to her on paper. Laura can now see the e-prescription on her mobile phone, which also provides detailed information about the drugs and about the right way to take them. Furthermore, the app also shows her the closest pharmacy that has her medication in stock while only listing suppliers who provide high quality medications at a reasonable price. Once she is back at home, Laura can use the app to access additional information on her disease and read health tips from doctors. All of these services are completely free of charge.
Not a miracle, but an innovative business plan
It seems astonishing that using a free app could make it possible to access better treatment while paying less. But it’s not a miracle, as inventor Moka explains. All the services are possible thanks to a clever business plan: The doctors, pharmacies and drug companies involved ultimately pay for all the services provided. They pay a commission of 7.5% of all revenue earned through the app to have their profile uploaded and be listed on the app. This allows iSikCure to offer users reduced rates. Medical providers enjoy benefits too, since being listed on the app is free advertising and facilitates better calendar management.
iSikCure turns their revenue into MedPoints for users, who gain points for every time they use the app, whether to enter symptoms, search for a practitioner, make an appointment, enrol new members, or share medical tips. The app rolls out payment for each visit to the doctor. iSikCure transfers the full cost of the treatment to the doctor, but only charges the patient the reduced rate. If the bill is for 10 USD and the patient has 3 USD in MedPoints, iSikCure transfers 10 USD to the doctor’s account, while only withdrawing 7 USD from the patient’s account.
iSikCure has beend launched in March 2017 in Nairobi and is available for download, even as the network of providers is still being built. At the end of April, 1051 users had downloaded the app and 184 practitioners had registered, providing iSikCure with their first real income. “The goal is to have 1.8 million people download iSikCure in Kenya and elsewhere by the end of 2018,” Moka explains.
The medication service is also underway. iSikCure is working with two wholesalers with a portfolio of over 2,000 different drugs. Once live, clinics and even doctors will be able to order medication from these wholesalers with a minimum order value of 100 USD via iSikCure to ensure that the most important medications are always available for their patients, while iSikCure makes sure that their partners offer the drugs in good quality and at favourable prices.
Setting up iSikCure with its huge network of doctors and distribution service for drugs throughout the country is an ambitious project, but it’s not the first project of this size Moka has tackled. A few years ago, Moka launched Kenya’s first health enterprise management system for clinics with the ZiDi platform. ZiDi was designed for hospitals and small clinics to allow doctors and nurses to manage patient charts, help with diagnoses and data storage, help with finance and accounting, and help manage medical inventories and reordering in pharmacies. The social business receives support from renowned institutions like the International Partnership for Innovative Healthcare Delivery (IPIHD) and the DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft. Moka and his team successfully applied to the Ashoka Changemakers challenge with their iSikCure idea, and are now implementing the project with support from pharma giant, Boehringer Ingelheim.
“iSikCure is a business that can really change lives,” Moka says. “It helps provide equitable access to health care for everyone. And you can potentially use it in any part of Africa.” Except for the medication delivery, the services aren’t limited to the region the company operates in. Doctors, clinics, and patients can register in any country. “If people get organised, they can find local partners and set up a network in their own country. So we’re looking for activists who want to drive change in their communities and are convinced that we can do better in healthcare.”