Bisa Health App: Telemedicine addressing the gap in Africa's healthcare.
How are African telemedicine startups and companies shaping and building resilient healthcare systems?
Laaru Consulting interviewed Raindolf Owusu, a software developer and technology entrepreneur. He founded Bisa, which means ask in the Ghanaian language Twi; it is a telemedicine platform that gives the public access to doctors and health information using a mobile device. The French version of the application was launched in Senegal in collaboration with the country's Ministry of Health in 2019. Dubbed the "Mark Zuckerberg" of Accra by Forbes Africa magazine in 2012, he has received various awards, such as the Mandela Washington Fellow for Young African Leaders.
In 2016, he won the International Telecommunications Union Young Innovator Award. He has consulted for the World Food Program's Innovation Accelerator, International Labour Organization, IBM, and ThoughtWorks.
What kind of problems does BisaApp try to solve daily?
Bisa is a telemedicine platform that connects patients to doctors through a mobile device. Telemedicine is an advantage for people who need medical care and advice but cannot visit the hospital for various reasons. Such reasons include cost/affordability, long hospital queues because very few doctors attend to many patients, and the fear of stigmatization (especially for people exhibiting symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and are embarrassed to seek the needed treatment). For the reasons mentioned above and many others, there remains a gap in healthcare delivery, which does not allow certain groups or classes of people to seek medical help when needed. BisaApp is not just any app, and it ensures patients are guided and provided the required information to take the necessary steps.
Bisa continues to work tremendously hard to cater to the identified gap in the healthcare sector.
Who uses this platform, and how can they use it?
Bisa is open to the general public and users of smartphones. Users have the feature to
ask a medical doctor issues affecting their health, and also they receive verifiable healthcare information.
3. Has the COVID restrictions or the pandemic affected your companies business operations, and if so, how?
It has affected our frequent travel abroad to meet potential partners and attend conferences to network, but it has also reduced the travel costs that come with it. The COVID-19 virus has brought a lot of awareness because of our work in digital health. We have gained more recognition because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are some of the challenges faced as a startup in the African healthcare space? And what would you want to be done differently?
The major challenge is the commercialization of our technology. We found it very difficult asking our users to pay for the service, but now it is easier, thanks to payment systems, to get our customers to pay a premium to use our service.
Has there been a general reaction towards COVID and your app curtailing the stigma? Any thoughts on how to sensitize the masses?
During this pandemic, the BISA app serves as an opportunity for users to receive health information on the pandemic, check their symptoms and receive expert advice. Bisa also serves as a means for health authorities to follow up on patients being treated at home, and we currently provide psychological support to survivors and health workers.
What does success look like for BisaApp?
Our success is when we can provide answers to young ones, especially young girls who need medical consultation but are restrained because of the fear of stigmatization or due to travel costs. Once Bisa can provide an answer that will help assist these young ones. This is a success for us.
Where do you see BisaApp in the next 5-10 years?
Bisa Health Application aims to be the pioneer of telemedicine in Africa on two major fronts: information dissemination regarding disease prevention and control and connecting patients to doctors through the use of technology. Using the data gathered on the BISA platform, and whilst adhering to doctor-patient confidentiality, health experts will be able to detect outbreaks of diseases early, and decision-makers can also implement the right policies to meet the healthcare needs of people and communities.
More information on BisaApp