20 Mar “Do what you believe in…”-Olufemi Okunlola. Founder, MediServe
MediServe is a new WebApp for Healthcare services in Nigeria recently launched in February 2017. 34-year old Olufemi Okunlola, a resident of Lagos Nigeria and an Indian certified IT professional with over 13 years work experience, founded the platform. This week on Startup Stories, Olufemi gives us insights into the journey of the startup.
Startup Story of the week
MediServe is a web portal where people can search for medical practitioners, private and government hospitals close to them and across the country. The traditional visits to hospitals and other therapy appointments in Nigeria usually require long waiting hours for patients, with MediServe, people can consult healthcare providers and or specialists online. They can also book appointments right from the comfort of their home, office and on the go.
MediServe is a smart solution aimed at creating the very missing Health Information System in Nigeria. It is a comprehensive directory of Medics, Specialist, Surgeons, Private Health Centers, Primary Healthcare Centers around the country. We just launched the first phase of MediServe on 10th of February 2017. The feedback and reviews have been quite encouraging from some of the Nigerian tech professionals, as well as good pointers from a few health care providers in Nigeria on how to further improve our user experience.
The motivation to create MediServe stemmed from my personal experiences with a couple of healthcare providers in Nigeria. These experiences drove me into the task of improving our healthcare delivery system. I don’t want to be among the people who blame the government for everything. My philosophy is “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
The Nigerian health care has suffered several downfalls. The country is significantly under-served in the healthcare, and so I always ask myself, how do we (Nigerians) bring about the change and improve the healthcare system in Nigeria?
- By not waiting for the government to come and fix everything, even though it is their major responsibility.
- By doing something as an individual to effect the much-needed change, no matter how little.
- By creating a system that verifies the delivery of healthcare services
- By setting up an unyielding knowledge base to encourage research culture
I realized that the lack of access to information on good healthcare providers in Nigeria is a massive and growing problem. I did some research and also found out that the Healthcare system in Nigeria is seriously lagging behind many other industries in harnessing the capabilities of IT to improve services, knowledge, communication, outcomes, quality, and efficiency.
As technology improves every day, new developments are always infiltrating our lives. Breakthroughs in information gathering, research, treatments, and communications have given healthcare providers in more developed countries new tools to work with and fresh ways to practice medicine. Hence, I developed a desire to bridge this wide gap by creating a solution that enables more people to use the Internet to research their medical issues. For the users, this means not only looking up symptoms but exploring treatments and medicines on the web. While it is never a good idea to skip out on the doctor altogether, MediServe avails people the opportunity to have a real-time interaction with different medical practitioners. Therefore they are more empowered to make decisions about what to do next, have a clear understanding of their condition and schedule hospital visits if that is required. Best of all, the patients are encouraged to come back to the portal to rate the overall services of the medical institutions, the facilities, and other experiences.
MediServe has been self-funded by me from the start till date. The major marketing strategies that we have used is online advertising. We’ve created some ad campaigns on social media to inform people about our services. We have also begun word of mouth marketing via a Door-to-Door promotion.
Challenges and opportunities walk side by side. I don’t see problems; I see opportunities embed in every situation. Most people did not share that same core value with me regarding the workability of the solution in Nigeria. I was constantly reminded of how we do not have constant electricity in Nigeria, fast internet connectivity, affordable data and so on, therefore, the idea can’t work in this part of the world. Their general belief was that Nigeria is not ready for technological advancements, especially in the healthcare sector but I never considered giving up on the project. Though some efforts have been frustrating along the way, it has not been enough to deter my working towards achieving the set goal.
Technology in healthcare delivery service is evolving pretty fast, and the prospect of a virtual doctor visit becoming as well accepted as a traditional office appointment is one of my high expectations for the entire industry through MediServe. It is not far-fetched, but in fact is the most appropriate care for many patients.
There are lots of plans, some are currently undergoing testing and fixes. We’ll be launching the patient-doctor-video chat function soon as well as other cool features.
To the entrepreneurship enthusiasts, do what you believe in, put in extra work in whatever you find doing and make sure you love whatever you are doing. Once again, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. Find a need and fill it.