HealthTech in The Age of COVID-19

So this week I had a conundrum as to what I should write about; I got interested in healthcare, jobs & business models, specifically how businesses’, mostly tech, choose their respective revenue models & if it’s possible to choose the wrong revenue model for a particular business model — which is all theoretical though, a business doesn’t work like that in real life.

What I do want to write about this week is HealthTech; given the global pandemic we all are currently living in, healthcare is top of mind — together with money, job security & food. I think the biggest worry for most people is job security; with questions such as ‘will I have a job after this? is my company going to survive this? & if everyone is getting a pay cut, how much will that be?’ popping up in many social spaces. Unemployment in the US jumped from 2-3% to above 14% in a matter of 8 weeks, one can only wonder what is happening in our own country given the high number of people unemployed as it stands & an already weak economy with limited job opportunities but I think we should start with healthcare & HealthTech.

In the South African HealthTech space, innovation is happening at the fringes, predominately out-of-hospital & confined between the relationship of patient & the caregiver. Even so, the likes of RecoMed, Guidepost & Vula Mobile are poised to thrive in the age of COVID-19.

RecoMed was founded in 2013 by Sheraan Amod as a project of SpringLab, a startup venture builder that was based in Cape Town. RecoMed is an online healthcare booking platform which allows a patient to quickly book an appointment with a practitioner of their choice. RecoMed has been thriving with a record number of bookings; up 30% YoY, much of it can be attributable to people being more health-conscious, seeking early detection & preventative care.

How does RecoMed work though? like any service-based marketplace, the customer bears the cost for the user. In this case, the patient is not the customer, the patient is the user, the customer is the doctor trying to acquire new patients. So RecoMed charges them a 5% fee per consultation booked on the platform. If a consultation costs, let’s say R750, RecoMed gets R37.50 of that. The average consultation fee for a GP depends on where you live but based on the location of most users of this platform it should be around R500 per consultation & when the platform gets a record high 3 290 bookings on a Monday well 3290*R500*5% is a decent amount for a Monday.

That is not the only form of revenue RecoMed has — they white label the solution for corporates & medical schemes, for example, clicks’s clinic booking platform & Discovery’s employee wellness clinic. The missing component to RecoMed would be online consultations an offering similar to Hello Doctor or even Dr Connect, the latter now offering a free COVID-19 screening consultation to the public, in partnership with Vodacom.

It is no secret that morbidity from a respiratory virus like COVID-19 is higher for the elderly & people with underlying conditions, which leads to a higher mortality rate. In South Africa, 12.7% of adults between the age of 21-79 have diabetes, which equates to ~ 4.5 million people. That number has increased by 137% since 2017. I haven’t even touched the number of people living with HIV or that 19% of the population is at risk of getting some form of cancer before the age of 75. So companies like Guidepost are ever so important to society, not negating that access to the likes of Guidepost is important too.

Guidepost is a software company that helps caregivers coach their type-2 diabetic clients in how to manage the disease through insights derived from data. As a dedicated health programme; patients are referred to Guidepost by their healthcare providers, Guidepost connects them with coaches who are equipped with the necessary tools to assist the patients & of course the insurers pay for it — provided the patient is covered for the chronic illness benefit above the prescribed minimum benefit. Guidepost recently got funded by Rand Merchant Investment’s (RMI) Alphacode division which suggests they might be planning on becoming an insurer themselves.

When I think of healthcare I think of access & Obamacare, why Obamacare? I have no idea. Like most things healthcare has a price attached to it, access to healthcare becomes a question of is it affordable or is it free, the latter often characterized as lesser than. The statement itself has a dichotomy because at the core primary healthcare is the same whether you pay for it or get it for free from a clinic — if the outcome is the same wouldn’t the argument of value be redundant?

I digress, Vula Mobile is a HealthTech startup focused on telemedicine. Founded in 2013 by Dr William Mapham, Vula Mobile is focused on connecting caregivers in rural areas with a specialist on behalf of the patient via a mobile app.

Since 2017 the startup has grown its footprint across Swaziland, South Africa & Namibia. I don’t yet know how Vula makes money but Dr Mapham & his team are solving real problems & should be supported in whatever way possible. Since the beginning of COVID-19 in South Africa, together with Gift of the Givers & their 11 000 healthcare workers, Vula Mobile has been using the platform to gather insights on what is required to fight the virus from the frontline & to help healthcare workers get access to PPE.

The continued investment in healthcare & HealthTech solutions, not only for out-of-hospital easy to use platforms but also in-hospital care by people smarter than I am will benefit society in a far more meaningful way.


By Ububele Kopo

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