Why digital healthcare is needed in Africa
The innate capacity of blockchain for security and privacy makes it an ideal fit for tracking the entire healthcare supply chain, believes Toby.
The middle man is removed from transactions and transparency ensures accountability.
“You can’t lie about a transaction on a blockchain so it’s a lot harder for fraudulent behaviour, which is a big issue in Africa,” explains Toby.
“We’ve used blockchain to make sure there can’t be any misappropriation of funds or medicine ending up on the black market.
“Another thing it does is put the patients in control of their own data.”
He’s spent three years travelling across the continent to pitch the Kinect Hub concept to their ministries of health.
The company is now working with countries including Sudan and Tanzania, while further afield it’s also set up partnerships in India, Mexico and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
More will follow, particularly in Africa where more than seven in ten people in Africa use a smartphone, according to Toby, while mobile payments are popular due to a lack of access to debit and credit cards with banks.
“Lots of people in Africa are accustomed to using their phones to pay for things so that’s one of the reasons this can be rolled out aggressively across most parts of Africa,” he adds.
“The health burden in these countries is horrific,” says Toby, who is executive chairman at Kinect, the London-headquartered company that was set up two years ago and developed the technology.
“The misery it causes there isn’t a pleasant thing to see when you’re on the ground, but this technology can genuinely change all that in a manner it never has been able to before.
“If the money is going to the right places, the record-keeping is consistent and people are incentivised to act appropriately, this disease burden would have been going down already.
“It’s definitely going to have the most profound impact of anything I’ve ever worked on in these emerging markets.”
Having predominantly paper-based record systems to track the medicine supply chain doesn’t just lead to cluttered desks.
Toby says: “It’s very inefficient so it leads to medicine being wasted and a lot of duplication.
“A patient comes into a clinic one week and then has the same thing the following week, but there’s no real data coming out of these systems that’s reaching the ministries of health or pharma companies. When it does, it’s generally nine months out of date.
“There’s also a lot of misappropriation. A significant proportion of medicine doesn’t reach its intended destination because of poor supply chain tracking and inefficiencies of distribution.
“Instead, it ends up on the black market, while counterfeit medicine is being counted as genuine medicine in its place.”