One of our Hubs Tradition is to bring together and showcase doers, thinkers and trailblazers changing the face of healthcare. Here is the 1st edition on our Human of HealthTech and we are featuring a well seasoned healthcare practitioner and well esteemed healthtech startup founder.
We must dismantle the solid walls in our minds and rethink healthcare, then we can unlock the economic and social growth potential and do it well. “”
Kindly introduce yourself and what you do
My name is Abimbola Adebakin , I studied pharmacy and then business management at graduate and post graduate levels, both from the University of Lagos. My career has spanned pharmacy(community, hospital and marketing), management consulting with emphasis on organizational development, leadership development and recently, entrepreneurship development. I presently combine all of these in my role as the CEO, Advantage Health Africa. We are a tech focused health enabler. I see us working all over Africa soon, facilitating access to affordable and quality healthcare. I lead the team that has brought initiatives like my-medicines.com (aggregated online pharmacy for B2C) launched three years ago, and myPharmacy (a franchise chain with pharmacies in seven states of Nigeria, doing a number of things to facilitate B2B in pharma space-access to skills, markets and resources). So, essentially, AHA is a B2B2C health-tech venture.
What is your view on the influence of tech towards improving the healthcare sector in Nigeria, what is currently being done and your recommendations?
We have huge gaps in healthcare delivery, all across the value chain and interfaces that are required to have true universal healthcare. The five key areas need interventions and renewed systems to deliver value or the outcomes that we seek in promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services. There is very little (or no) chance we can meet the needs of our growing population in Nigeria and even Africa, with brick and mortar and the associated heavy lifting. We need more specialists; how do you get them without rapid capacity development and exposure enabled by technology? We need more facilities — how will they ramp up capacity and utilization without more digital equipment and processes? We need more professionals to deliver cutting edge value adding services — how can they do this without technology to enable them and avoid burnout?
We need adequate monitoring and reporting, use of clean data in resource allocation and all that will make us pre-emptive and strategic rather than reactive and fire-fighting — how else except through modern techniques in data gathering and business intelligence tools? From grassroots to the top echelon of decision making, we need a health system that is renewed and empowered with technology. Let’s go beyond the notion of telemedicine and tele pharmacy or use of new channels of communication. Let us look at integration, interoperability and interfaces that make working in healthcare a joy. We must embrace technology as a necessity and not a nice to have. Enough of playing in the fringes and let’s dive right in. The economic capacity of healthcare cannot be realized without a full embrace of technology from our primary, secondary, and tertiary health institutions. From school to hospital, from manufacturer to community pharmacy, from equipment maker to rehabilitative centers. From research to potions treating and solving global diseases. Are you telling me there is no cure for cancer in our forests? I doubt that strongly. But with low tech, low research, low investments in enablers, we will keep eating those leaves and making their barks out for chewing sticks. Our reluctance has impeded growth and I certainly need a revolution in healthcare that embraces and entrenches tech as an enabler, not as a destination, but as a necessity to get us further on the journey.
With regards to diversity In health-tech in Nigeria, how are we doing? Is there a gap, if yes how can it be bridged?
I understand this to mean deeper development, design, and utilisation of technology by all and sundry. Male and female. You see, anyone can be an artist — you don’t see anyone saying males make better artists. Anyone can be a singer — male or female. Same way my mind works regarding technology. You don’t need an extra hormone or sexual organ to utilize, design or develop technology. Kill such thoughts — hinders growth. Anyone, and I repeat, anyone who sees a gap should step forward. We have too many rudimentary issues in healthcare for us to slow down who gets to solve it. Permit yourself to be a SOLUTIONS PROVIDER — old and young, male and female, local and international. Rather than disqualify yourself from the ecosystem that needs to be built and fortified, examine the issues, go back to basics, study options within and outside our sector, grow in expertise regarding any skill to possess OR buy/borrow such skills (you no longer have to do everything by yourself), and let us ALL solve the problems! Male and female alike. The age of tech being an exclusive preserve of the male is so archaic. I actually have no such mental blocks in me, and find it strange when it comes up in my discussions. I get asked about gender biases and I can’t find it in me. I hire and fire based on non-gender related factors and I believe if you bring value to the table, you have a seat waiting for you. You don’t need an extra hormone or sexual organ to utilize, design or develop technology. Kill such thoughts — hinders growth.
What advice can you give aspiring health tech founders based on your experience?
Carry less weight and move.
We come with our own prisms and view points about issues both fundamental and rudimentary. I know, because, no one just dropped from the sky. However, some of these create dead weight and keep you back from uncovering the rich treasures in our sector. For example, healthcare is a business. I believe this fundamentally. If you don’t, you will continue to play it small and impact is impaired. You see, just like in agriculture, the shift is happening from subsistence farming to agribusiness. And the appreciation of the whole value chain is making sure innovation happens with light and speed — see better packaging all around you now, faster speed to market, value-added products agribusiness as a means of livelihood and not a sidebar or PP. We must see healthcare from such new perspectives. For too long, we have insulated ourselves in the aid-only space, and have ignored growing capacity on the demand and supply sides. Do you see anyone providing aid for you to make phone calls? Hardly. It’s a pure business region, and Nigerians spend billions on phone calls, and even borrow billions worth on a daily basis. Why not in healthcare? Do you see many interventions in transportation? Yet, Nigerians move about and have embraced innovative solutions with cab hailing and ride sharing to others. Why not in healthcare?
We must dismantle the solid walls in our minds and rethink healthcare, then we can unlock the economic and social growth potential and do it well. We cannot continue to perpetuate healthcare –services, facilities, processes and systems, that worked decades ago; and believe we should just focus on inter and intra professional ramblings. You see, these are distractions. Where opportunities are clear, the distractions will fall by the wayside. The Nurse will lead a team of others to provide care for 100,000 lives and make clear solid impact. With no regrets. That’s what I want you to begin to see. There is enough to go round, if we embrace an abundance mentality. Let us solve the problems of our demand side and our supply side, let those of us operating in the middle be more efficient with our systems (processes, measures and standards), let us communicate more and proactively prevent the preventable diseases and stem the growing tide of non- communicable diseases. Let us embrace technology- home grown or imported, and let us begin to expose ourselves to the right perspectives that will draw substantial investment into our sector. Then and then alone can we cause the accelerated growth that I see possible. Don’t bother yourself with being accepted, you will if you think win-win-win. Think how to carry the regulator along and don’t hinder yourself even if it is yet an uncharted territory. Have the audacity to carry those who need to be carried along. Open us for best practices and good governance. Embrace new insights and run. Run. Run! We have so many examples springing up nowadays, don’t be distracted. Focus.
We hope you had a great time reading our interview with Abimbola Adebakin .
Till our next edition ,stay inspired!!
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