Covid-19 has disrupted supply chains and global logistics as it restricted trade and travel, this also had implications for healthcare.
Salient Advisory in its recent report has outlined how this has led to challenges in access to essential healthcare products like diagnostics and therapeutics and impacted the logistics of products like medicines and medical consumables coming in and out of Nigeria.
Salient is a health care consulting company that helps change-makers enact transformative approaches to health with a focus on technology, financing, and partnerships. The organisation research was conducted in four African countries, including Nigeria bringing to light health tech start-ups that are using technology to improve the distribution of health products and information.
A webinar recently organised by Nigeria Health Watch in partnership with Salient Advisory themed “Innovation in Health Product distribution – Key trends and opportunities in Nigeria” discussed the findings of the report titled ‘Innovations in Health Product Distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa’.
Speaking at the webinar, Yomi Kazeem, senior consultant at Salient Advisor in his opening presentation pointed out that investors, governments, donors, and other public health agencies often struggle to understand the key trends and opportunities to engage and advance public health goals, in relation to the commercial innovator’s ecosystem.
Kazeem explained that the research scope in the report included companies providing solutions for inventory management, B2B marketplaces for product ordering and innovators offering patient engagement services, as well as e-pharmacies and e-commerce operators.
Adding that some of the emerging trends from the report included that innovators were expanding their service offerings to provide end-to-end patient journeys and digitally-enabled D2C distribution players are adding channels for telemedicine consultations, while retail pharmacy outlets were adding digitally enabled distribution operations.
“The report also highlighted that as with most ecosystems, health tech innovators faced challenges and key among them was funding. Another key challenge highlighted revolved around the regulatory environment that currently exists, particularly for telemedicine and e-pharmacy businesses.
“Between 2018 and 2021, there has been a significant increase in the number of innovators operating in the ecosystem of health product distribution. This is a positive development and the webinar provided an opportunity for three selected innovators to share their key insights about their innovations,” said Kazeem.
Also speaking according to Remi Adeseun, director, Salient Advisory “Medicines play a vital role in health systems and most Nigeria patients believe that their care is incomplete unless there are drugs accompanied with it.”
The webinar brought together diverse leaders in the health distribution industry, public health professionals, researchers, scientists, members of the media, and other members of the public with an interest in health.
Ikpeme Neto, founder WellaHealth explained how his organisation offers microinsurance products that cover the common health care challenges that people face, offering a basic healthcare plan for malaria that gives people access to malaria testing and treatment. He stated during the webinar that “WellaHealth provides access to affordable healthcare and inequality”.
Morenike Fajemisin, founder of Whispa Health explained how the app she had developed enabled users to have private chats with doctors about any aspect of their intimate health. They can order sexual health products like HIV tests, condoms and have them delivered to homes or offices in plain packaging to disguise what is inside. “Whispa addresses access to sexual and reproductive health information”.
Michael Moreland, founder Shelf Life explained how his parent company Field, had launched Shelf Life as a service that allows pharmacies to sign up in a bid to outsource their supply chain. Shelf Life supports the planning, fulfillment, and finance of the stock so that pharmacies can focus on sales. According to Moreland “I have been working in Nigeria with the government since 2011 and there has been great openness to innovation”.
He observed that during these challenging times, this was a much-needed conversation as it provided an opportunity for disruptive ideas to be brought to the forefront, showcasing health tech startups that are using technology to improve the distribution of health products to patients, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the important role that can be played by health tech innovators, supporting the public health response and contributing to the fight against the pandemic. This was the general consensus at the webinar, raising the urgency to accelerate and provide the necessary enabling environment for African health-tech innovator in the supply chain to scale up,” said Moreland.