Nigerian entrepreneur Oluwasoga Oni founded e-health company MDaaS in 2016 with his counterparts Opeyemi Ologun, Genevieve Barnard Oni and Joseph McCord.
The company was incubated at MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship and was part of the inaugural Techstars Impact class of 2018.
Here, we speak exclusively to Oluwasoga on how MDaaS is changing the narrative of healthcare in Nigeria in their efforts to connect patients with critical health infrastructure.
Can you give us a breakdown of MDaaS – what challenge are you solving in Nigeria’s health industry?
Diagnostics is the foundation of modern medicine and is key to the effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment of infectious diseases and lifestyle diseases. Two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans lack access to even basic radiology services. This means that millions of preventable diseases go undiagnosed, resulting in lower quality of life and early death. …I Soga, grew up in rural Nigeria in a family of doctors. I saw firsthand how challenging it was for doctors and their patients to access the equipment they needed and the impact that this had on their overall care. My dad [Dr. Julius Oni] founded and still runs a hospital called Inland Medical Center, located in Ikare-Akoko in Ondo State, Nigeria. I was born there and spent a lot of time growing up in the facility with him.
Years later, while a graduate student at MIT, I visited the Center again and was inspired to find a solution to the diagnostics challenges he still faces today.
By 2030 in Africa, deaths due to lifestyle diseases (e.g. cancer, heart disease, diabetes) will outnumber deaths from communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional diseases combined (WHO). At the same time, the population of the continent is exploding, reaching 2.5 billion by 2050.
How is technology used in your business?
Operational excellence is perhaps our most important competitive advantage, and technology enables us to provide the best possible experience for our patients and doctors while keeping our costs down. We developed and use an in-house diagnostic center management platform that allows us to automate clinical workflow, generate and store electronic medical records, leverage remote consultations, and streamline the billing process. We combine this use of technology with a human-centered experience for patients; everything from the way our receptionist greets you at the door, to the design of the waiting room, to the follow-up communication with patients is designed to “wow” our customers. We want patients to leave our centers thinking, “I never knew a trip to the doctor could be so painless”.
How does your business model work?
At MDaaS Global we build and operate modern, tech-enabled diagnostic centers in clinically-underserved communities starting in Nigeria. Our target market is low- and middle-income Africans living in urban and peri-urban areas. Today, in Nigeria alone, there are over 130 million patients who fall into our target market, representing a $1.3 billion opportunity with massive growth on the horizon. Given the looming epidemic of non-communicable diseases, we focus on high-impact and preventative diagnostic procedures, such as digital x-ray, mammography, echocardiography, and pap smears. We are working to build the physical and technological infrastructure required to meet the healthcare needs of patients both today and many years into the future.
MDaaS Global centers serve as the centralised diagnostic department for all surrounding hospitals and clinics in the community as most health facilities lack the economies of scale necessary to purchase and maintain their own diagnostic equipment. Our patients find us via several different channels: referrals, walk-ins, partner clinics and labs, employers, health insurance companies, and other partner organisations. Currently, about 80% of our patients pay for some or all of their care.
We launched our flagship diagnostic center in November 2017 in Ibadan, Nigeria and to date have served over 9,000 patients. We partner with over 60 different referring health facilities and over 100 different clinicians who rely on us to make critical decisions about their patients’ care.
Congratulations on your recent procurement of $1.1million in seed funding. What do you plan to do with this injection of capital?
Thank you! We will be using this capital to launch operations in 4 new locations in southwest Nigeria, grow our clinical and operations teams, and develop the next version of our software platform.
What’s been the reaction from the industry to MDaaS as a disruptor, and do you have any partners?
We are highly complementary to other firms in the space, partnering with clinics, pharmacies, maternity homes, and smaller labs as well as health insurance providers and employers. The clinicians who refer their patients to us for testing love the high quality of reporting we provide and fast turn-around times, but they particularly appreciate the attention we give to customer service combined with affordable prices.
What can you tell us about Nigeria’s health sector, and your users specifically?
Like many health sectors in other African countries, the public health sector has been chronically underfunded and private health facilities are, on average, small and fragmented and are not able to scale to the healthcare needs of the majority of Africans. The national health insurance scheme covers less than 10 percent of the population and as a result, 70% of health care spending is from out of pocket spending which is not ideal, given than over 40% of the population are below the poverty level. Our target market is these low-and middle-income Nigerians living in rural and peri-urban areas. Today, in Nigeria alone, there are over 130 million patients who fall into this category.
Do you plan to expand into other African countries?
Yes! Our goal is to build a pan-African company providing healthcare for Africa’s next billion. The challenges that we are tackling in Nigeria exist across the continent, and we are excited to continue refining and adapting our model to new markets in Nigeria and beyond. In the near term, after growing our reach in Nigeria, we plan to expand to other West African countries within the next few years.
Complete this sentence: In 2020, Africa will be…
In 2020, Africa will continue to be a hotbed of healthcare innovation as we strive to create stronger health systems for the continent’s next billion.