SeekMed App Is Creating A Market For Affordable Telemedicine In Africa

By  |  August 1, 2019

It was sometime in January this year when the story of little Benaiah went viral. The little boy was born with multiple holes in his heart, and his parents had taken him to many different hospitals, and even churches too.

But all their efforts had yielded little fruit. The little boy was in really bad shape, and there was nothing more that could be done to help him, at least not in Nigeria. For, Monday Agoboye, the little boy’s father, had combed the length and breadth of the country seeking solutions both medical and spiritual, all to no avail.

Then, just when it seemed like it was a lost cause, a glimmer of hope came when a specialist recommended a critical surgical procedure as the only hope for the little boy. But whatever relief that news brought was short-lived as it was also revealed that the procedure could not be handled in Nigeria and that at least NGN 15 Mn (USD 40 K) will be required to take the boy abroad and foot all the medical bills.

That was when Monday Agoboye lost it. All this time, something could be done to save his little boy, but he had been running in circles. And now he didn’t have that kind of money. So, the frustration got the better of him, and he ended up in a viral video where he sat on a busy road in Rivers State, Nigeria, lamenting bitterly over his plight while carrying the sick little boy on his lap.

Within hours, the video was all over social media. And two days later, Nigerians had helped him raise NGN 70 Mn (USD 194 K). In the weeks that followed, he was processing papers and making travel arrangements. But little Benaiah never lived long enough to have that treatment. He breathed his last in a flight to Dubai.

It’s a sad story, but one can’t help but wonder what could’ve been if the little boy’s father knew where to get help much earlier. What if he knew about SeekMed? Maybe things could have gone differently.

SeekMed is making giant strides in bringing the best in medicine and the best of technology together to serve the patient community. It is a quality-focused telemedicine platform where patients battling severe medical conditions can quickly get credible medical advice from a network of super-specialist and award-winning doctors from anywhere in the world.

Through the global platform, a patient living in Lagos, Nairobi, Durban, or anywhere else in Africa can get a medical opinion on an existing or new condition, a possible surgery or an ongoing treatment, through video consultations with top-ranking physicians from one of the world’s most sought-after health tourism destination, India.

The shortcomings of the healthcare sector in Africa borders on three factors – accessibility, affordability, and quality. The SeekMed mobile application checks all those boxes; making it easier for doctors to reach out to patient population living in even the remotest parts of the African continent.

On the SeekMed platform, patients can find super-specialists for their needs, request and book appointments, upload their reports, make fee payments and have video consultations from the comfort of their homes. SeekMed’s core objective is to help patients get access to quality healthcare at a fraction of the cost, save time and most importantly, eliminate uncertainties around a doctor’s availability on a given date.

SeekMed’s pool of renowned doctors with national and international repute makes it easier for patients to not only seek expert medical advice but also feel confident about taking control of their medical decisions.

Little Benaiah is an unfortunate casualty in the maldeveloped system that is the healthcare sector in not only Nigeria but Africa in general. No doubt, a lot has been done to improve the quality of healthcare on the continent, but there is still a lot left to be desired in the area of proficiency and accessibility. 

In many ways, the continent has been left behind. Between inadequate healthcare investments and poor infrastructure, it’s little wonder why members of the elite especially have no qualms fleeing to other destinations when they need critical medical attention. The promising development in healthcare technology can certainly help to improve the situation and it sure looks like SeekMed has taken the first move on it.

Every year, thousands of Africans travel out of the continent to India and other parts of the world, mostly, for various kinds of medical appointments, from the very important to the downright superfluous. But can you blame them? There aren’t really that many trusted places to go to when trying to obtain accurate opinions on health status and travelling abroad to get expert medical attention always seems like a good choice.

The problem is that these medical trips abroad come with a lot of baggage, and they don’t come on the cheap either. Those who can afford it and are in a condition to do it are far too willing to embark on such trips, and understandably so. 

But what about those whose pockets aren’t as deep, or those whose fragile health will be set aback by the strain of travelling halfway around the world in an enclosed capsule? (Think little Benaiah.) What if such people could get help without having to spend so much or come so far?

This is where telemedicine comes in as a veritable solution. By definition, telemedicine entails the delivery of healthcare services, such as health assessments or consultations, over telecommunications infrastructure. That is to say; it allows healthcare professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients using conventional technology, such as video conferencing and smartphones, without the need for an in-person visit. It is especially useful when such appointments are not ‘absolutely necessary’, and a lot of those visits aren’t.

Telemedicine now makes it possible for medical practitioners or hospitals to consult with different specialists, regardless of their location. However, when it comes to complex medical conditions requiring expert opinion, it’s not easy to find and connect with seasoned specialists. Even in this day and age of increasing digital penetration, anyone could get sidetracked or even bamboozled by the sheer volume of misleading information available on the internet.

Hypothetically, let’s say a patient can identify a trusted doctor abroad; getting an appointment for an office visit with associated travel arrangements could easily take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. With SeekMed, however, a patient can get through a video consultation with a doctor of repute in less than a week. Patients also have a choice to consult with multiple doctors on the platform before deciding on the doctor they best respond to.

Last year, a Nigerian lawmaker stated that as much as USD 1 Bn is spent by Nigerians on medical treatments abroad every year, with India being the hottest spot for Nigerians looking to avail themselves of top-notch medical attention. 

But what if they didn’t have to make that gruelling 8,000-kilometre trip or take a feet-numbing 15-20 hour flight to get help at all? What if they could get what they’d have gotten in India at the comfort of their living room in Abuja or Mombasa, and for a tiny fraction of what it would have cost if they actually made the trip?

That is precisely what telemedicine app, SeekMed, offers. SeekMed eliminates the financial and physical strain that comes with travelling for medical attention by enabling users to book appointments with trusted doctors, share scans/medical reports, have video consultations with top doctors at convenience, and even make online payments — all for a relatively negligible amount. It takes away the physical burden and financial cost of travel.

The telemedicine platform is looking to improve access and availability of healthcare services in Nigeria with its user-friendly mobile app which allows patients and physicians to communicate in real-time while complying with HIPAA standards. The app currently has over 25,000 downloads on Play Store.

SeekMed was launched in 2018 by Mr. Alok Awasthi, a seasoned IT professional, and Mr. Sharad Dubey, a well-read financial expert. Both co-founders are currently based in the United States and between them are identical stories of humble beginnings from middle-class families in India, as well as interesting tales of sheer grit and hard work yielding fruit in the end.

SeekMed Founders: Alok Awasthi (L) and Sharad Dubey (R)

Their personal life experiences combined with their visions led them to believe that healthcare is not a privilege reserved for the rich of society but a fundamental right to every human being on the earth. All too aware of the difficulties the ordinary person has to contend with in search of quality healthcare, both co-founders are committed to making the best of healthcare available and accessible to every person, regardless of how deep or shallow their pockets may be.

Since the platform came into existence, the reception has been quite encouraging. Within five months of its launch, SeekMed received requests for appointments from as many as 28 countries ranging from Nigeria, Ghana, UAE, Vietnam and the Philippines to Mexico and the United States. India, too, showed instant response to the telemedicine platform’s exceptional feature.

SeekMed provides users with a strong and growing network of more than 50 doctors duly weighted by the SeekMed panel on quality and various other parameters. Some of the doctors are distinguished recipients of Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri — respectively the third and fourth highest civilian awards in the Republic of India.

The doctors on the SeekMed platform are medical experts with a proven track record of excellence in diagnostics, treatment, and surgery in their fields. Some of them are Chairmen or Heads of their Department at renowned hospitals like Fortis, Max, Medanta, PSRI, BLK, and others.

One of such seasoned medical professionals is Dr. T.S. Kler, Chairman at PSRI Heart Institute, one of the great minds and motivational force behind SeekMed. Dr. Kler adds- “We need a platform that patients can trust to seek expert, credible & ethical medical opinion. That is the unique aspect of SeekMed- building a solid network of quality doctors who are considered one of the best in their respective specialities.”

SeekMed Panel Doctors - WeeTracker
Doctors on SeekMed Platform: Top L to R Padma Bhushan Dr. TS Kler and BC Roy Awardee Dr. Ajay Kumar
Bottom L to R: Padma Bhushan Dr. Anil Kohli, Padma Shri Dr. KK Sethi, and Padma Shri Dr. DS Rana

With an inflow of more than half a million patients from across the globe generating more than USD 10 Bn in revenue, India is one of the most sought-after medical tourism destinations in the world.

The South Asian country has become the hub for medical solutions in recent times, boasting some of the world’s most seasoned medical practitioners and proving unbeatable services in the areas of diagnostics and surgery. Little wonder why many Africans continue to visit the country for medical reasons.

A paper released last year suggested that of the total medical tourists who came to India, Africans make up the major contributors. A similar study notes that more than 50 percent of patients from Nigeria and Kenya prefer India as the destination of their choice for medical tourism. The study suggests that more than 20,000 patients from Nigeria visited India for medical reasons in the year 2017 alone.

The other African countries with a significant number of medical tourists flying to India include Kenya, Tanzania, and a number of others;  a trend helped in no small part by the sheer volume of medical experts and easy access to state-of-the-art medical infrastructure in India.

Thus, SeekMed is committed to offering this quality healthcare to anyone in sub-Saharan Africa who has a smartphone and some form of internet connection. SeekMed is about overcoming geographical barriers to provide healthcare services while cutting down on healthcare spending and saving time for both patient and caregiver. SeekMed launched in Africa through its first base in Nigeria and it is expanding to Kenya, Ghana, and Namibia. It’s the first of its kind in Africa.

The unique app leverages telemedicine by offering unlimited access to top physicians and surgeons in India who would conduct video consultations, send reports, write prescriptions, and give recommendations over digital channels. 

The app also allows unlimited upload of files of various types while offering users the option of marking their favourite physician for quicker identification and quicker follow-up — all for a small token that is more like a drop from the bucket when compared to the actual cost of going all the way, or the cost of risking their lives on uninformed opinions.

SeekMed’s simple user interface also makes it suitable for elderly people who can comfortably use the app and connect with their trusted doctors. In-person appointments can also be arranged via the SeekMed platform.

In emergencies, SeekMed advises patients to immediately contact a local hospital or clinic, as the video consultations are not intended to support emergency cases. However, the app comes with a feature that allows a patient to send an emergency or SOS Signal to the patient’s listed emergency contact along with the GPS location — another first for the telemedicine platform.

With hundreds of patients already served, SeekMed is on a mission to cut down on the amount of money spent on the medical diagnosis and travel plans by offering everyone access to a rich roster of top-rated medical practitioners right from the comfort of their location. And with its team of accomplished doctors, developers and technocrats who share a strong commitment to the delivery of quality healthcare, that goal is well and indeed being achieved.

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