In an age when most people carry a tiny computer in their pockets at all times, medical records in African countries remain mired in paper, making critical data inaccessible to doctors, hospitals, researchers, and scientists.
“Until you have real data to understand what’s going on in health care in Africa, you can’t provide real solutions,” says Adegoke Olubusi MS ’16, co-founder and CEO of the health care technology company Helium Health.
He notes that 90% of facilities have been relying on paper records. “You can’t start to solve problems until insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and others have data visibility and access into the market, which right now is seen as a black box,” he says.
Today, Helium Health operates in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Kenya, and it will be expanding into Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia before the year is over. It has collected $12 million in funding from global investors to provide digital infrastructure to health care facilities. And it’s become the largest health care technology provider in West Africa, serving thousands of doctors and moving into areas like telehealth and payment processing.
Helium Health has also been assisting with facilities’ COVID-19 response by setting up virtual care platforms. As airports shut down in Africa, people who were accustomed to traveling to India, the United Kingdom, or the United States to meet their health care needs were grounded at home. They encountered shortages— ranging from cancer centers to MRI machines—in Africa.
“For the first time since the military rule in the 1990s, people couldn’t just access health care outside the continent,” Olubusi says. “We had to face the reality of what happens when you don’t invest in the health care sector. And now everyone is open to conversation because they can see it’s real.”
After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Olubusi worked as a software and product engineer for companies including Goldman Sachs, eBay, and PayPal. His work as a founding board member of the social media company Yookos helped guide the thinking behind Helium Health, inspiring the creation of an intuitive experience that looks and feels like a social media platform. Olubusi also co-founded Magic Fund, a venture capital fund of startup company founders that backs transformative work.
In the near future, Olubusi intends to focus on making sure Helium Health spreads across Africa, adapting its vision of technology and data to fill the needs of diverse cultures. “It’s really the process of establishing that same vision in Morocco or in Kenya,” he says. “It’s a big task for us.”