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How Nigeria’s health financing deficit could shape up Helium Health’s loans

Health financing deficit in Nigeria could begin to shape up on Helium Health’s foray into raising quick loans to save staggering hospitals and those looking to raise the bar.

The health technology solutions company will leverage artificial intelligence to gather ample data on hospitals’ operational performance and create a unique lending system that can enable qualified hospitals to access N10M collateral free-loan in less than 24 hours.

This solution means that hospitals will have at their behest the financial backing to acquire more equipment, attract more experienced talent, scale up pharmaceutical inventory and manage more patients.

“Healthcare providers need funding to keep functioning while preparing for the anticipated increase in chronic disease burden. Injecting additional funding into hospital operations can make a significant difference,” Adegoke Olubusi, Helium Health’s chief executive said in a statement provided to BusinessDay.

“HeliumCredit is a timely source of financial assistance to healthcare facilities that have faced financial fallouts or falling revenue, want to scale, or need to upgrade their equipment or processes.”

Amid a growing rate of COVID-19 infection in May, private medical practice was almost halted to a grind as patients with non-emergency cases deserted hospitals.

Hospitals lacked the bravery to attend to even the few patients who approached them because the additional cost that kitting health workers with personal protective equipment brought was a brunt too heavy to bear for many.

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Some hospitals in fact considered shutting operations in what highlights the frail and light-weight nature of some hospitals in terms of weathering a pandemic storm.

“No one is giving us palliatives like PPEs to be bold to even attend to those who brave it and come. No testing kits. So we are exposed and patients are turned back when you are not sure of what they are suffering from,” a healthcare provider in Lagos told BusinessDay during in May.

Many healthcare facilities have continued to face dwindling revenue as a result of the pandemic and require buffers such as this to stay afloat.

Private healthcare facilities deliver care to about 60 per cent of the population and serve as the first point of call to 80 per cent of people.

But 57 per cent of these hospitals often fail to raise funding from external sources due to lack of comprehensive data on their operations. The challenge often leaves them with under-resourced, bootstrapped healthcare facilities, filled with under-trained and under-compensated health workers. These culminate into poor delivery for patients, pushing them to the brink terminal situations in ill-equipped hospital wards.

Ifeoluwa Olokode, Helium Health’s head of partnerships said the initiative’s target is to achieve the sort of acceleration that digitisation has given the financial sector in the health sector as well.

“One of the major challenges is limited financing and it’s because there is no transparency about how these hospitals operate. You know how the digitization of the financial sector basically accelerated the sector, we want to do the same with the health sector. The foundation of getting data is digitizing the records,” she said.

The credit system is just one of Helium’s Health means of diversifying its health portfolio. Its main product is the Helium Provider Management Suite which provides a digital infrastructure for medical records and an online consultation platform.

In May, the health tech company secured a $10 million Series-A funding round led by Global Ventures and Africa Healthcare Master fund (AAIC) and co-led by Tencent, Ohara Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd, HOF Capital, Y Combinator, VentureSouq, Chrysalis Capital, Kairos Angels, and Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Company.

Funding from development agencies and venture capitalists have flowed into tech companies providing healthcare in Africa, even before the pandemic.

Data from San Francisco-based investment firm Partech shows venture capital investment in Africa’s health tech companies grew to $189 million in 2019 from around $20 million in both 2017 and 2018. Even amid the heat of the pandemic, about $97 million was raised in the first half of 2020, according to Partech.

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