Ms Ezinne Anyanwu is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Efferent Services Limited, a Healthcare Advisory and Information Technology firm based in Lagos. In this chat with Vanguard, Anyanwu who holds a Master’s in Health and Medical Informatics from Brandeis University, Massachusetts, USA speaks on why she relocated to Nigeria, her business and the challenges. Excerpts
By Ebele Orakpo
EZINNE, as she is fondly called, obtained a BSc. degree in Nursing from Prairie View A&M University in Texas, USA and worked in government hospitals as a licensed Registered Nurse in Texas. She went on to obtain a master’s degree in Health and Medical Informatics. She also holds a master certification in Advanced Business Process Management from University of San Francisco. She is a member of several professional bodies including the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA).
Coming back home: According to Ezinne, she came back to Nigeria because she felt that healthcare was changing drastically and driven a lot by technology.
“In Nigeria, lots of discussions go on about technology but not necessarily a lot on implementation. I saw that as a big opportunity to come back home and contribute in a way that I know how,” she said.
She relocated to Nigeria on September 17, 2015, to set up Efferent Services. “It’s been quite a pleasant experience. I don’t regret it one bit. I never for one day say ‘oh, I want to be back in the US, never!” she stated.
What we do
“One of the things I learnt on coming back here is to be very flexible. Nigeria changed Efferent from what we originally set out to do. On the advisory side, we help healthcare organisations really understand the impact of IT and the improvement it can have on their practices, and how they can streamline different operations rather than the manual process. We also look at patient-centred care and how technology can provide that experience.
On the outsourcing side, we partner with different IT companies around the world that we feel their technology can fill the gap on our needs in Nigeria. We act as their exclusive representatives and help to bring them into the country. Nigeria is a big market and everyone wants to get in but not all can come and set up an office and bring in staff so they outsource all of that to us.
Teleradiology solution: “When patients go to the hospitals, nine out of ten times, they are going to need diagnostic assessment and there are not enough radiologists for the population so we partnered with AlemHealth, a company that started in Afghanistan. We felt that if they did it in Afghanistan, the chances that they will do well here is great.
The teleradiology solution provides our clients’ healthcare facilities access to a global network of radiologists for seamless collaboration at affordable cost. Before now, if a patient gets a scan done, it is either printed out or put on a CD and someone drives it to somewhere but with this technology that uses the same data as phone data, we can send the images to any radiologist anywhere in the world.
This has been very successful. So we create access to thousands of radiologists all over the world instead of one who is usually overworked and stressed. Now, facilities have access to thousands of radiologists. We have been successful in that in both public and private facilities.
Patient engagement platform
AmHealth: This is a patient engagement platform that allows doctors stay connected to patients before and after appointments via sms and email. It helps them to manage appointments, communicate with their patients via sms. We found a niche market that is often forgotten – the clinics, primary healthcare facilities that really drive the sector. The technology is very customized and unique.
EMR: When patients come into a facility over and over again, they start the whole process over and over again so what our Electronic Medical Records (EMR) solution does is to alert the radiologist or the doctor that this patient had been here before and calls up the history.
People have internet, they go online and start diagnosing themselves. They look up what is wrong with them before going to a facility, so if they do that and then show up in a facility and the medical record is not readily available, there is an issue there.
We are engaging the facilities more on the importance of medical records. The EMR addresses the challenge of accessing and managing patient information accurately and efficiently across different departments of a health care facility from registration to doctor diagnosis, to billing. We also make sure that these technologies work very well,” she said.
Challenges: Ezinne named power, storage and resentment as the major constraints. “Power is a constraint but we have taken care of that as our technologies have their own power backup solutions. Storage is an issue also so we give facilities very cost-effective solutions. We know the economy is pretty rough right now but we don’t charge millions of naira; we try to make it as cost-effective as possible.
One of the biggest constraints is the resentment from previous technologies our prospective clients had tried so we spend like two parts of our time to convince them to give us just one try. We go through those that are using it, get their buy-in and then go to the stakeholders and say we’ve actually spoken to those that would use it and they like it. Initial cost: I will say my entire life’s savings.
I don’t think you can really raise enough money because we thought we had enough money but no one anticipated the recession we are going through. No one anticipated that the naira would be shooting way past N400. When I came in, it was N205 – N206 to a dollar but now, it is N420. That was why I said when we came in, we had to change really quickly to adapt to what was going on and I am glad that I have great mentors like Dr Obinna Nwaneri who I can always reach out to and bounce some ideas off.
“But it is quite expensive. Like I said, it took my entire life’s savings because I did not come to go back after one year. I am looking forward to the many years ahead. It is very exciting.”