Pharm. Sesan Kareem, is the co-founder and CEO of HubCare Health. HubCare is a digital platform that connects holistic primary care directly to patients. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, Kareem, a young global leader whose experience and skills spanned general management, marketing and sales, public administration and healthcare services, disclosed how the newly founded digital platform aims to serve the underserved patients population in Africa, through the provision of quality and affordable healthcare services. He highlighted the huge benefits the platform has got for patients and clinicians a like, as it saves time on physical consultation, reduces cost and expands access to experts on different diseases. Kareem, who also serves as a board member of HAVEK Leadership Academy, Safe Medicines Foundation, Mareek Image Concepts and EMQ Trials, narrated how he developed the passion to bridge the gap in accessing healthcare in Africa, after the death of a loved one. Excerpt below:
With so many telemedicine platforms in the digital space, what informed your decision to establish HubCare Health?
In 2015, I lost my good friend Wale and his wife due to lack of access to health information and affordable quality healthcare services.
Wale had persistent cough for weeks. So, he started treating cough with different cough syrups. After three months of persistent coughing, he decided to see a doctor at the primary health centre. The doctor prescribed antibiotics for him to use, which he did, but all to no avail. Wale noticed that the wife also started coughing and he was loosing weight. He called me and explained his symptoms. And I advised him to go for investigation.
His laboratory investigation revealed that he had active tuberculosis and had infected his wife. They both started treatment paying out of pocket and it was a struggle to keep the treatment going, along with other domestic expenses, despite the fact that they both had severe infection, always feeling weak due to TB and the treatment regimen. In March 2015, Wale lost his wife to TB and in November 2015, my cousin called to inform me that Wale had died in Abeokuta at his mother’s place.
It was a difficult period for me because Wale was not just a friend; he was like a brother to me. He was one of the few friends that came during my induction into the medical profession in 2013. And I was one of his few friends that stood by him during his wedding in 2012.
I know if Wale had got a platform that can give him better information on what are the possible health conditions he might have apart from cough, get quick access to board qualified doctors and started his treatment right on time, he wouldn’t have infected his wife, the TB might not become severe and I might still have both of them with me as my extended family members.
I also know that there are millions of people in Africa who die prematurely because they didn’t have access to timely, quality healthcare services and information. Thus, I decided to do something in a systematic way on this big problem in Africa. And this is why we started HubCare to care for all Africans.
Fortunately, I was able to find two other co-founders who have the same passion to improve the healthcare system in Africa, Wayne, a singaporean and Tope, a Nigerian and today we have HubCare.
What are the benefits this new digital platform is offering patients in Africa?
HubCare enables patients to be connected to healthcare professionals who will meet their healthcare needs. This saves patients travel time and cost of an in-person appointment. The platform allows healthcare practitioners and facilities to offer their services within their space and earn extra income. HubCare is on a mission to democratise healthcare for Africans. Therefore, we’ve created efficient ways to bring the cost of healthcare way down and make quality care accessible to all Africans.
This includes standardising pricing so you don’t need to stress yourself over unknown insurance costs, and using technology and AI to speed and smarten up the process of seeing a doctor. We also use a free symptom checker that compares your symptoms to millions like you to give you an idea of what’s wrong.
We have different affordable prices for different plans including conditions like erectile dysfunction, anxiety and depression.
Our rates are cheaper than that of other telemedicine and in-person providers. That’s because we charge straightforward fees, regardless of your condition or treatment, with or without insurance. This lowers the amount of people involved, in turn lowering the costs associated with billing, calculating, and negotiating prices. You also avoid the costs most insurance plans charge for primary care visits, such as copays, hidden fees, and high deductibles.
HubCare Health’s cutting-edge technology solution helps your care team focus more on diagnosing and treating you—and spend less time on triage, scheduling, and in-take paperwork. Our AI-powered symptom checker solution asks you questions about your symptoms and, in seconds, compares them to the anonymous medical records of others with similar cases. When you start a chat with a HubCare Health-affiliated clinician, they immediately see your prior responses to help diagnose you in minutes and guide you on the next best steps.
HubCare Health offers virtual care, and is used remotely, either on your computer or smartphone, which helps save on costs typically associated with going to the doctor’s office. This includes gas, parking, childcare, and time off work. Waiting times are also lessen, because there are hundreds of doctors available to see you, whenever you need, 24/7.
Quality services are the hallmarks of an ideal healthcare platform. What are the services available on this platform?
We provide end-to-end healthcare services facilitated by our online platform. Which include virtual consultation with board certified clinicians, ordering of prescription medicines and OTC products through our partner pharmacies, laboratory test through partner labs, as well as health education and information.
We also have a full range of health and wellness services to look after every aspect of your healthcare needs. This includes urgent care, chronic care, specialist care, mental health and preventive care.
We are so proud today that we have over 50 healthcare professionals on our database, dozens of users and tens of healthcare facilities who have registered on our platform during our initial pilot stage. We will be rolling out our product to all Africans in January 2022 starting from Nigeria with our monthly membership plan. This will be expanded to the rest of Africa in the next 2-5 years. By the way, the first month is free for all. If our new users are satisfied with the level of care they receive, they can renew their monthly membership
How can Nigerians access the services provided by HubCare?
Our services are membership- based and can be purchased by individuals for themselves or their parents (https://www.hubcarehealth.com/individual-plan/). We also offer services for corporate organisation for our business plan. This includes health screening, monthly membership plan for employees, mental health support and health talks and workshop (https://www.hubcarehealth.com/business-plan/)
Furthermore, individuals and healthcare organisations can partner with us as a healthcare professional (https://www.hubcarehealth.com/healthcare-professionals/) or healthcare facilities ( https://www.hubcarehealth.com/health-care-facilities/) respectively as we change the healthcare landscape in Africa one person at a time. As an individual or corporate entity, you can work with us in making healthcare accessible and affordable for all Africans.
What are the challenges you faced in founding HubCare Health?
I think the biggest challenge for the founding team was to find a product-market fit, a quality healthcare digital solution that is not just the regular telemedicine platform. My cofounders and I were also pertinent about reducing cost of healthcare for Africans without sacrificing quality when it comes to primary healthcare. After months of research. we were finally able to find a way we can reduce the cost significantly while improving quality for our users.
Definitely, HubCare is still in its infancy. What your plans on expansion going forward?
HubCare digital platform is not just for convenience and access but a tool for medical excellence and a catalyst for a valuable clinical experience for both patients and clinicians. We will continue to improve our products and offerings to achieve better clinical outcomes for the patients and practitioners.
With over 600 million Africans lacking access to the healthcare they need in this digital age. HubCare’s team will continue to work assiduously to increase our market share, serve more people, hire new talents and create an omni-channel healthcare experience for our users. Our goal for the next 10 years is to help 10% of the 600 million Africans who lack access to the care they need through our platform and collaboration. This is our ambitious goals going forward, delivering quality primary healthcare to 60 million Africans in a decade