Health Is Wealth

How WellaHealth Aims To Unlock Blocked Paths In An Awakening Healthtech Scene

By  |  January 11, 2023

At the height of the devastating Covid pandemic in 2020, the importance of functional and reliable systems for healthcare delivery and support came to the fore perhaps more than ever.

And the role of technology in accelerating and scaling healthcare in today’s world was put to the ultimate test, yielding impressive results and sparking a wave of interest in healthtech startups plugging the gaps in legacy healthcare systems.

Across the globe, the sector has seen significant activity in the form of key medical breakthroughs and exciting liquidity flows since then as investments into the sector have grown, and Africa’s healthtech scene has seen its fair share over the past couple of years as local healthtech startups have gained footing.

One such startup, WellaHealth, which launched in Nigeria in 2017, is providing healthcare services by leveraging technology and collaborating with local pharmacies and other healthcare providers to make healthcare coverage available.

Last year, WellaHealth served over 100,000 patients and grew its pharmacy network by 30 percent to nearly 2000, per the company’s latest year-in-review letter. The startup partners with healthcare providers and insurance suppliers to provide financing and slash costs for people seeking medical care, helping to cut down on in-person hospital visits for common diseases while also reducing the cost of tests and medication.

WellaHealth’s Founder/CEO, Dr. Ikpeme Neto, shared boots-on-the-ground views with WT on the challenges and prospects of the continent’s healthtech scene coming into 2023 in a quick-fire interview.

How would you describe WellaHealth’s model and strategies at present and what drives your interest and approach?

Dr. Neto: We at WellaHealth provide affordable health plans for the mass market. We focus on informal markets that make up over 60 percent of most African economies. Relatedly, over 70 percent of people pay out of pocket for healthcare. 

What do you reckon is WellaHealth’s edge over its peers and what are you doing better to make WellaHealth a no-brainer among clients?

Dr. Neto: Our edge is our focus on low-cost but high-quality care distributed via our own trusted network of agents and health providers.

What systems do you have in place for operational excellence and research to identify areas of need that are viable?

Dr. Neto: We track a number of key metrics and utilize OKRs to stay focused on our goals.  On the research side, we have a very experimental approach and are set up to carry out experiments on products and features we launch. When new launches aren’t meeting our projections, we are not afraid to exit them.

How would you describe the progress and investments in the local healthtech scene since the height of the pandemic when the sector was put in the spotlight? Has there been an encouraging leap or has it been less than satisfactory? Also, what are the ways to drive the industry further forward?

Dr. Neto: There has been significant investment into the sector, thanks in some part to Covid. I wrote a review of this year and within it are links to the previous six years that chronicle this growth. Several startups have also entered the growth stage and attracted significant growth capital. To drive the industry forward, more growth stage capital is needed. Also, early-stage experimental capital needed to build the startups of the future. Finally, investment in talent and operators to help grow these emerging companies is also key.

What is WellaHealth’s approach coming into the new year amid the subdued sentiments in the tech markets and less than favourable macroeconomic conditions?

Dr. Neto: We are focused on building a profitable business that solves real problems for people. People will always need healthcare regardless of the macroeconomy so we’re safe as long as we continue to focus on our customers. 

What are WellaHealth’s goals in the near future and what is your strategy for achieving those goals? Also, are you dipping your toes in new areas?

Dr. Neto: Focus is our mantra, we want to be known as the first person you call for any illness. To do that, we will continue investing in awareness, market education, and excellent customer service for our existing health plans. Beyond this, we are always testing out new features with our community of users in the markets we operate. The results from these tests help guide the updates to services we announce.

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