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How the Internet Gives Africans Access to Healthcare Services and Products

Dr. Wale Adeosun

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Wellvis is a digital health solutions company founded by young Africans — Wale Adeosun, Ayomide Owoyemi, Segun Mustafa and Moshood Abdullateef — who wanted to streamline interactions between healthcare workers and patients. Hailing from Nigeria, the team realised how difficult it can be to receive or provide health services due to a myriad of challenges. This gave birth to an online tool that mimics a visit to the doctor. 

As COVID-19 spread across the world and in their home country, Wellvis bridged the gap of raising awareness by providing a practical guide of how the disease is contracted and spread and what to do in the event of infection; alleviating pressure on government hotlines. 

The Wellvis “COVID-19 Triage Tool” helps users perform a risk self-assessment and has been used more than 750, 000 times in the month of June. The tool has also been officially adopted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in the fight against COVID-19 in the country. Africa.com was introduced to Dr. Wale Adeosun and his team, when they entered the Brilliant African Innovations against COVID-19 competition, as part of the Crisis Management for African Business Leaders webinar series. Wellvis earned a joint second place position.

Watch the pitch video:

What makes your solution unique?

A Wellvis user can ask questions anonymously and get feedback from both health workers and users alike, although the replies are clearly identified and responders, whether health worker or not, are clearly tagged. Our solution offers a free and open version, as well as a premium version thereby ensuring inclusivity even for low-income patients and young adolescents who have health issues and cannot afford to pay for a consultation or are not geographically positioned to access health facilities. Overall, we use an innovative approach to create communities of health seekers across Africa.

Who should be using this innovation?

The platform was built primarily to bridge access barriers so anyone from anywhere who has any health issue is a typical Wellvis user. We currently cater for doctors who want to extend their reach to include a virtual clinic and to everyone else — sexually active young adults, new parents, caregivers, chronically ill patients with a smartphone and internet access — who have health queries and require individualised and specific answers. 

People suffering from chronic illnesses looking to join a support group with other people or caregivers suffering the same illnesses for moral support and empowerment can also use the Wellvis platform.

Our disease management and risk assessment tools are available to people with chronic illnesses or want to assess their risk of contracting or developing a particular disease or condition.

How does it work?

Wellvis offers an open platform where anyone can ask questions about their health for free. Answers are offered to these questions by licensed health practitioners. Users can also chat with a doctor at an affordable rate, have diagnostic tests ordered, and prescriptions delivered to them all through the platform.

Wellvis also has an educational segment where our doctors write on health matters of importance to the public in an easy to understand way that is devoid of medical jargons.

Various features are available on Wellvis, both online and offline; the Q&A platform aims to improve access to quality health information and to encourage the patient’s active engagement using a crowd-sourced forum model. Questions are asked on the platform at no cost, openly or anonymously if they choose, while answers are provided by the growing number of healthcare workers.

We also offer a premium option for telemedicine services (direct one-on-one online consultation with verified health workers), appointment booking (plus reminders) for physical consultation with specialists and/or for lab investigations and a portal to access curated health services and products at a discount.

What kind of impact will your innovation or solution have on your immediate community?

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and its subsequent spread around the world, we have worked on sensitizing the public in understanding what is going on and what to do to be safe and to curtail the spread of the infection. When it became apparent that it was within our borders, we increased the dissemination of preventive measures from relevant public health agencies via various digital media channels.

We believe the “COVID-19 Triage Tool” has helped to reduce the number of unnecessary and curious calls to disease control hotlines, thereby allowing persons who have been exposed to reach the disease control authorities faster, while also providing quick risk assessments, education, and decision making on COVID-19 to users. 

Wellvis helps to provide an alternative means of practice for doctors and other health workers. A lot of health service buildings are not fully functional at this period and Wellvis provides an avenue for health workers to keep offering their services and get paid (remotely) as they move their practice online.

Wellvis’ open platform has also helped people get tailored and nuanced perspectives on different health issues, helping them become more aware and empowered to act decisively, and we believe that the health advice gained from the platform contributes to improved health outcomes for members of the public and will continue to do so.

What key message do you hope to get across?

There is a reluctance for a lot of people to move consultations with health practitioners from physical spaces to virtual spaces, however, we have started to see an increase in the request for telemedicine services, especially for non-urgent primary care. Research has shown that more than 60% of primary care can be managed virtually.

What’s the one takeaway that you want readers of this article to leave with?

The key takeaway is that the public should embrace the internet as a gateway to solving their health challenges. But we caution against searching randomly online but rather patronise verified platforms like Wellvis where they will be able to access quality healthcare services at a fraction of the cost, doing so at the comfort of their home and office. 

Wellvis is on a journey to see universal health coverage being the long term goal. We will keep leveraging the increasing penetration of the internet and smartphones to optimise existing methods of healthcare access.

Visit Wellvis.org Email Wale Adeosun

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