However, healthcare remains quite expensive with medical bills continuing to be one of the biggest financial burden facing most Kenyans. According to statistics, it is estimated that every year about 1.5 million people are pushed below the national poverty line due to direct medical bills. Only 1out of 4 Kenyans have medical insurance and the medical inflation rate currently stands at 12% compared to the global inflation rate at 9.5%.
From these stats, you can tell that the cost of receiving medical care is very high, and it is not expected to reduce very soon. This major challenge has seen companies like SAHL Health, come up with solutions and platforms that help people save and prevent more for a healthier and wealthier life.
“We recognise the pain of expensive healthcare, even those who have medical insurances have minimal benefits and may not handle most costs and many people turn to friends, family and charity to help with shocks and emergencies which risk them falling below the poverty line because of direct out of pocket payment,” said Kelly Kinuthia, Corporate Relation Manager from SAHL Health as she explained to us what drove them into setting up a business in the health tech space. Adding “That is why we developed a discount platform for saving purposes and a preventive platform through health checks aiming to minimise risk factors, detect illness at an early stage making illness manageable and less expensive.”
SAHL Health is an online health platform that connects people seeking preventive and affordable health services to a network of health service providers. The organisation prides in a network of 100 health partners supporting the medical cost-saving platform offering discounts and health screening e-commerce platform. Also, the platform extends the same service to corporate companies with tailored made wellness screening packages and unique medical cost saving through discounted and structured direct contracting models.
The SAHL Corporate Package program that resulted from the recognition that most SME’s or companies don’t offer their employees medical insurance but when employees are seeking medical care companies pay the bills. Besides some employees have chronic conditions or at risk of greeting them. By understanding this problem SAHL provides three products within the program
On the 2020 pandemic, Kelly explains that just like most businesses, they have been affected. “There has been a negative impact on our business since the start of the pandemic,” she said. This, she said was related to government regulations and uncertainty and anxiety in the population about the disease.
To put the business afloat, part of what they had to do was to downsize their employee base. Another challenge was accessing partners since the company had just begun its acceleration of operations in Nairobi. On the positive, the company contributed positively to the pandemic by creating a covid19 screening platform that enabled self-screening convenience www.covid19.sahlhealth.com
“We also had to repurpose our business to new developments i.e covid19 screening platform and COVID-19 onsite testing for companies and individuals through our partners. On developments, we have refocussed product development to have less physical interaction among players and enhance trust in our products,” added Kelly.
Healthcare technology (HealthTech), is a fast-growing industry in the healthcare sector. It aims to provide patients with faster, cheaper and accessible healthcare with the help of technology. The technology can help in delivery, payment, and development and commercialisation of medicinal products.
The growth has majorly been accelerated by data and digital platforms. However, moving forward, Kelly predicts that the growth in the health tech space shall be accelerated by the lessons learnt during this pandemic enabling an increase in the adoption of digital tech transformation.
“Many people and organisations who did not take healthcare and its provision seriously before COVID-19 will now do so, driving consumption and governments are likely to do so. But the future remains uncertain if there will be sustainable growth,” she added
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On what sets them apart from other organisations in the health tech space, Kelly explained that they pride in having unique products in the market that centre around saving on spending and prevention of disease. For example, a medical discount online platform saving members on direct out of pocket bills and having the first online health check e-commerce to improve early disease detection.
To date since the launch, SAHL Health prides itself on a number of milestones including developing a robust product of medical discount platform and a pilot testing of health check e-commerce platform. So far the company has also subscribed 250 individual members, 2 corporate members with a total of 70 members and has since increased its partners from 10 to 43 partners which are growing at a faster pace
Despite the milestones, the company has also had a fair share of challenges but these have propelled them to develop a unique product that most people don’t understand. One of the greatest challenges was getting the right developer for the product, ” We had to change severally because of inadequate skill capacity,” explained Kelly.
Also being a unique new product, making people get an understanding of the product was quite a challenge. “Obvious finance comes in since it affects the time of delivery of the product and reach of the product to a larger clientele number,” she added.
Through these challenges, however, Kelly explains that the ultimate lesson gathered has been that business and innovation is always a work in progress, have mental agility and be open to change.
On partnerships, Kelly explained that despite the mutual interest, the company looks out for partners who are interested in offering better discounts to members, and those who have unique products that improve access and engagement in health space
“One of our key pillars is in partnerships. Currently, we have over 40 partners, and we continue to seek partners along with these categories hospitals, laboratories, imaging and diagnostic centres, dental facilities, pharmacies, critical emergency services, wellness and fitness companies, health support services, and medical insurance companies,” she explained.
Further to this Kelly had simple words of advice to people starting off at the Health Tech Space, ”If your goal is to improve lives, then digital healthcare is the space for you and get started and don’t reinvent the analogue wheel, it has its competencies use them to leverage,” she said.
SAHL Health is our member at Kilimani and they pride themselves in tapping in the larger community that encourages the connection of members which is something great for all businesses. “It has enabled us to reach out to more people and the highlight is that it supports startups and they have so far helped us grow,” concluded Kelly.