By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor
Adekunle Kunle-Hassan is a technical business executive, Product Manager and Software Engineer with experience in fast paced start-ups.
He is best at building software products with agile methodology in e-commerce, energy, entertainment and medicine. Recently, he built an electronic medical record and hospital management system called Indigo.
Kunle-Hassan says he discovers in Nigeria, healthcare system data is usually collected, processed and stored in paper-based systems, legacy systems and proprietary systems that are heterogeneously developed. According to him, this makes effective communication and information exchange amongst healthcare practitioners within and across healthcare organisations very poor. He believes that technology can change all that, and Indigo is the answer. Excerpts:
Can we have your view on Nigeria’s public health system and how technology can help revamp it?’
The Nigeria public health system needs more than one fix. To start would require a much larger budget to support the public health system and health education. We need to train more doctors, nurses, technicians and clinical support staff. We need more education on running hospital businesses. We need better equipped primary health care centres and more of them. We need to give more incentives for clinical personnel to stay in the country and pursue a viable career instead of leaving. We need more investment in infrastructure both physical and digital. There is a lot to do, but it is also the responsibility of citizens in the private sector to create what they do not see. Anything on the public level needs support from the government; however, awareness can be raised by private citizens.
Is that why you came up with Indigo; let’s hear the story behind it?
The inspiration came from several sources. First, my father and sister are medical doctors and I have seen their struggles with physical records and even multiple electronic medical records, EMR systems in their practices. Most often, these off-the-shelf software weren’t a perfect fit or even flexible enough. There were few or no updates and the practice would inevitably move on, looking for something that was a better fit.
Again, my experience building and working on applications in the software industry gives me an insight into building high-quality software that is fit for purpose. So, the combination of knowledge and gaps in the industry, made the math very simple and I pushed forward with the idea, and Indigo was born.
But do you think that HIS will mean much when other aspects of Healthcare delivery are almost comatose in Nigeria?
Of course, HIS is imperative to the continued success of any practice in Nigeria. The different health information pertaining to an individual is reposed in the health information system of the healthcare institution they are affiliated with. The local healthcare institution of an individual stores all information pertaining to the individual’s health and are responsible for securing the information and using that information to the benefit of that individual.
But in Nigeria, healthcare system data is usually collected, processed and stored in paper-based systems, legacy systems and proprietary systems that are heterogeneously developed. This makes effective communication and information exchange amongst healthcare practitioners within and across healthcare organisations very poor
HIS is also one way to save cost, be more efficient and run the practice better. The more patients can be seen per day, the better for the practice and sector which have one doctor per 3000 people. While there are many aspects of healthcare in our environment that require development, HIS is certainly a step in the right direction.
In the developed world, almost all health departments are linked to a central database making access to data and health information of every patient easy. How will Indigo thrive in a fragmented system where patients’ data are sitting in silos?
The aim of the new version of Indigo we are currently working on is to build a network wider than a single practice. It is software as a service platform that will eventually allow patients to share or move their records between hospitals on the platform. Patients will have access to their records via the app from all hospitals or clinics they have shared their data with.
Though as a country we may not have a central database now, I see a future where that is led by private sector collaborations, especially between health tech providers.
In practical terms, what has given since you introduced indigo?
Since developing indigo we’ve worked closely with a few hospitals to develop the platform and they have seen a reduction in fraud, better accountability, and transparency across the organizations. We have also seen a rise in data-driven decisions and a reduction of costs due to less paper and printing materials and more efficient inventory restocking. Most importantly there are also improvements for the patient. For multi-branch hospitals, patients’ data will be available across all branches so a patient can walk into any branch and experience continuity. There is also an app that supports appointment booking, telemedicine, payments and transaction history. As we continue to develop Indigo, the patient will remain one of our core focuses in our mission to deliver value to users.
What level of penetration has Indigo made so far, despite challenges?
As far as adoption within the hospital setting, we’ve had great success with our partners. We monitor things such as the platform’s level of use in each location and deliver compliance reports so hospital management knows where to focus efforts. We have overcome many adoption challenges by offering training and developing guides for hospital personnel. The system works best when the hospital takes advantage of all its core features, so we assist in ensuring maximum adoption.
You collaborated with a few hospitals at inception, have you expanded the reach?
We are still maintaining our collaboration with our current partners. When our SaaS product comes to market we will be accepting feedback from all institutions on the platform and using that data to grow the product.
What are the advancements made on the system so far, considering that tech innovations are dynamic?
The system is built with modern best practices. As the platform grows we will have a major focus on data science and machine learning. We have huge cutting-edge plans for Indigo and look forward to bringing more services and products to market via the platform.
Let’s talk about finances. Can you share the investments that have so far gone into Indigo, and what is expected to be pumped into making it a successful project?
A considerable amount has been invested in Indigo to date. The product we are about to release is several years in the making as we have taken the time to learn from our partners and consolidate that knowledge into a product that delivers real value to clinical institutions. We have a lot of work to accomplish even after we launch and we have a clearly defined product roadmap that will bring more useful features for both hospitals and patients. Investment to take indigo to where we ultimately envision will likely require a sum in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars