FOUNDER (S) – Dr. Pratap Kumar
INSPIRATION TO START THE BUSINESS
The diagnosis of a serious illness takes heavy emotional and financial toll on the sick and their families. Patients also have to make tough decisions on the choice of medical care. In many African countries, access to second opinion consultations can be challenging since most have a shortage of specialist doctors. And often the few available specialists are stationed in cities hence rural patients must travel long distances.
Dr. Kumar decided to bridge these gaps by providing patients in under-served communities with affordable, high-quality second medical opinions that help them understand their illness and the choices they face
BACKGROUND OF FOUNDER (S)
Dr. Pratap Kumar is a medical doctor, neuroscientist and health economist. He studied medicine in the Goa Medical College, India and practiced in Goa and Bangalore both in rural healthcare settings as well as a resident doctor in neurology. He obtained an MPhil in Neurophysiology from NIMHANS, India’s premier institution for neuroscience, where he published research on the interactions between sleep and seizure mechanisms.
Dr. Kumar obtained a PhD in Neuroinformatics from the Inst. of Neuroinformatics, University/ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and conducted postdoctoral research at the Free University in Berlin, Germany. His doctoral and postdoctoral research focused on the anatomical, physiological and molecular bases of communication between neurons in the somatosensory cortex. He obtained an MSc in International Health Policy (Health Economics) from the London School of Economics and has worked as a health economist in the pharmaceutical industry.
He moved to Kenya in 2012 to found Health-E-Net, a social enterprise aiming to make remote consultations accessible to all patients and healthcare providers. He also founded the Centre for Innovation, Research and Advisory Services – Health at the Inst. of Healthcare Management in Strathmore Business School. He has received numerous awards, most recently the ‘Stars in Global Health’ award from Grand Challenges Canada.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BUSINESS
Health-E-Net makes high-quality medical consultations accessible to everyone by linking medical skills all over the world to places where they are in desperately short supply. Remote consultations through Health-E-Netempower patients and healthcare providers in developing countries to make better healthcare decisions, and seek timely and appropriate care.
Remote consultations are a more sustainable and scalable method to bring specialist opinions to more remote areas than, for example, medical camps or primary telemedicine facilities. Second opinions delivered by Health-E-net would not depend on specific technological facilities, but build on existing infrastructure in these areas. In the long run this would create a genuine market for secondary care services beyond the urban centers.
Kumar also saw an opportunity to utilize the skills of diaspora doctors who want to contribute to the communities they left behind, as well as retired doctors wanting to do something meaningful with their time but without the hassle of long travels.
Health-E-Net has built a global network of volunteer medical professionals who review patient data and provide advice. These include retired specialists, doctors in the African and Asian Diaspora, and others committed to helping communities in need and building better healthcare systems.
Nurses who are part of the community health infrastructure help patients collect their medical records, digitize and store their data on Health-E-Net’s electronic platform. These ‘mediators’ then share cases with the appropriate remote doctors, mediate the consultation, and counsel patients on future steps.
Their unique electronic platform for remote consultations allows both paper-based and electronic medical data to be shared and viewed easily, with no training required. The technology allows private and confidential information to be removed and requests patient consent before any data is shared.
Health-E-net charges people who can afford to pay for these opinions. Access clinics, located in under-served areas, however, will provide services on site for free or at nominal cost. Electronic second opinions using the Health-E-net platform will also be offered in urban canters in the same countries, where a similar demand exists but many have the resources to upload data and request consultations. These independent requests, expected to arise from the affluent and educated elite, will be charged a fee for medical data storage and consultation. These charges will sustain the services of the access clinics, making the operations of Health-E-net sustainable.
The founder says there are many limitations to growing a start-up in Kenya. “The most important lesson you can learn in Kenya is to hustle,” says Kumar. “It has been a hassle to get funding. It is hard to get quality developers to work for a fair pay when they are being offered jobs by large NGO-driven projects that pay quite a lot. You have to be really creative to make it here. So for instance, working at the university has given me access to a wonderful network of people, including high potential students we have ended up hiring.”
There is one hospital bed for every 400 people in Nairobi, but only one for every 3000 people in Mandera! There are 12 cancer specialists in Kenya, of whom 10 work in Nairobi. If a patient in rural Kenya suffers from cancer, epilepsy or depression, they are often forced to make the trip to Nairobi just to see a specialist doctor.
Health-E-net connects rural patients with an appropriate, highly-qualified specialist doctor to help them understand their illness and the choices they face. Beyond that, they help patients navigate the healthcare system and support them in their journey towards being healthy again.
Dr. Kumar says, “We are changing the way Kenyans access specialist healthcare by helping them to understand their choices, to ask the right questions, and empowering them to seek the best care possible – starting with a simple second opinion.”
POTENTIAL FOR SCALE UP
Kumar hopes to expand Health-E-Net across the continent, and globally in other markets that face healthcare challenges.
“It works in Kenya, but it is also workable in India, Papua New Guinea or Ethiopia,” says Kumar. “Any place where there is inequality in access to healthcare, [and] where there are large populations that are rural, poor and don’t have access to the next level of care, Health-E-Net will be very useful to such settings.”
HEALTH – E – NET – KENYA