Tito Ovia, Co-founder and Head of the Public Sector Growth Team, Helium Health

Tito Ovia: Accelerating Africa’s Transition to a Technology and Data-driven Healthcare Sector

Advancements in technology have changed the face of the healthcare industry. It is evident that technological solutions in healthcare have presented numerous opportunities for improving healthcare, reducing human errors, improving clinical outcomes, facilitating care coordination, improving practice efficiencies, and tracking data over time. This all contributes positively to healthcare outcomes.

As the healthcare industry is becoming more technology-driven, leaders in healthcare are playing a significant role in accelerating this transformation.

The interesting fact is that many women have been seen at the forefront of this transformation and making important contributions to diverse fields in the healthcare sector. They are constantly embracing innovation to provide accessible, affordable, and quality care and positively impacting patient’s lives. One such woman we at Insights Success came across is Tito Ovia.

Tito is the Co-founder and Head of the Public Sector Growth Team at Helium Health, a Nigeria-based health tech company that is building the technology infrastructure driving African healthcare.

Prior to Helium Health, Tito was an assistant project manager at Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LSACA), where she worked with private and public sector stakeholders to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS within the state. At Helium Health, she is using her invaluable experience to help the company accelerate Africa’s transition to a technology-driven healthcare system.

Passionate about Improving the Healthcare

Tito’s role at Helium Health allows her to work closely with the public sector and government stakeholders. It is important because a large percentage of the population depends on public healthcare institutions for their health needs. She has always been passionate about healthcare, and this led her to start Helium Health in 2016 as “One Medical” along with other co-founders. With Helium Health’s digitized medical solutions, there is a greater chance of providing the public with access to quality care

Tito wanted to build a system that would increase efficiency and eliminate fragmentation. When Helium Health examined the system, it realized that it could only do this by bridging the data gap in the sector. The company started to do this by providing technology solutions to providers, payers, patients, and partners to access even more data and get a broad view of what is going on in the space.

In the early days, Tito would go from hospital to hospital, pitching to doctors and hospital administrators, but there was a lot of skepticism because it was a small company of young people. These facilities knew Helium Health’s EMR was good, but they were a bit hesitant to trust their youth.

By December 2016, the company was awarded the Etisalat’s Prize for Innovation and, in May 2017, got accepted into Y Combinator. Today Helium Health is the largest EMR provider in West Africa with 470 hospitals using the software to handle over 290,000 patients visits monthly.

What makes Helium Health No. 1 Tech provider in Africa

Over 470 healthcare providers and 7,000 health professionals in Nigeria, Senegal, and Ghana currently use Helium Health’s technological solutions. From Electronic Medical Records, and Hospital Management Information Systems, to credit and telemedicine products, the company is allowing healthcare facilities to accept payments and issue invoices with ease, access quick funding, and hold televisits with their patients, making it easier for patients to get diagnosed from their homes.

However, the company’s most popular solution remains – EMR, which happens to be the flagship product. This model sought to accelerate or catalyze that inevitable transition of the country from paper-based manual systems to a technology and data-driven system.

To stay ahead of the curve, people at Helium Health went from hospital to hospital, understood the struggles doctors were having, and observed how they enjoyed texting. As a result, it created a solution similar to social media platforms which were less complicated and easy to use and manage. Once hospitals saw the intent to ease their stress, optimize efficiency, plug financial leakages, and improve their patient’s healthcare outcomes, they started to jump on the solutions and refer the company to other institutions and hospitals.

Facing Overall Healthcare Challenges

The first challenge Tito and her team faced was with hospital administrators. Many of them were not inclined to accept innovation due to grim experiences with other technology solutions and a general lack of trust. The majority of them were more focused on securing their practice and providing patient care to the best of their knowledge. This was a rational decision that didn’t leave room to explore technological solutions that would improve the data management and clinical operations of the facilities.

To allay their concerns, Tito and her team built the solution to be user-friendly, less complicated and easy to use and manage. Once hospitals experienced this, they started to refer the company even to their colleagues.

Moreover, infrastructural challenges in Nigeria also adversely affect healthcare. Challenges like erratic power supply, poor internet connectivity, and lack of devices in these facilities affected the smooth operations and use of health.

To fix this, Helium Health developed an offline solution where the company could work with an on-premise server, only needing the internet to periodically backup the data to the cloud and in cases where providers struggle with electricity and made provisions for solar energy.

Making Better Quality Healthcare for People

One of the major reasons Tito and her team have been able to improve healthcare outcomes is through its solutions. Helium Health drives collaborations with communities that enable to recruit and train local talent. For example, when it was called by the Akwa Ibom State Government to digitize their medical centers, the organization recruited locals within the community, trained them on how to use its solutions, and then sent them to the various medical centers to facilitate training sessions.

Tito asserts, “Even as we expand both within and outside the country, we will continue to contribute to those communities by recruiting local talents, equipping and empowering them.” For biomedical services, it is difficult to innovate when there is no access to real-time data, so it is bridging that gap. She believes that stakeholders will be able to make informed decisions that will deliver high standards of care with data.

The Exciting Future Ahead

Talking about the future of medical care post the COVID-19 pandemic, Tito mentions that one thing the pandemic has done is accelerate and encourage the rapid growth of technological solutions. Now, there are so many emerging platforms for service delivery and information dissemination.

According to the World Health Organization, chronic disease prevalence is expected to rise by 57% by the year 2020. This suggests that the future of care will revolve around solutions that can creatively help patients manage chronic conditions or visit providers virtually.

Helium Health envisions this rapid adoption of technology across Africa and is really excited about it. It will continue to contribute and add value to the health tech ecosystem by providing cutting-edge technology to all the stakeholders to bridge the communication gap and reduce data fragmentation across the continent.

“The last five years for us here at Helium Health have been mind-blowing and groundbreaking. We have moved into 7 African countries, and we have been recognized as one of the largest HealthTech startups in Africa. In the next five years, I see us expanding globally with newer offerings to leapfrog innovations in those markets,” concludes Tito.