Babyl Rwanda is a digital healthcare provider, registered in Rwanda but with its headquarters in London. Its objective is to put an accessible and affordable health service into the hands of everyone on earth by combining the ever growing computing power of machines with the best medical expertise of humans to create a comprehensive, immediate and personalized health service and make it universally available.
Dr Shivon Byamukama, the deputy CEO, explains how the platform works and their long term plan for Rwanda.
How does babyl work and what is your coverage in Rwanda? What is Babyl coverage in Rwanda, and what is the long-term plan?
Babyl uses a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning with live doctors and nurses to provide medical consultations to anyone with a mobile device. In the developed world where the penetration of smart phones is much higher, this is done through an app. A patient will download the app and privately go through a triage, or seek medical advise on the app and get a diagnosis. They can then go to a pharmacy or lab for more tests or request to speak to a doctor.
In Rwanda where the mobile telephone penetration is over 75%, with the majority of the population using feature phones, we have developed a USSD version. Anyone may dial *811#, and register for the platform using their National ID - which is attached to their sim card. Your ID is verified with NIDA in a second and feedback provided.
This is an important step because patient information is very sensitive, so we need to be sure we are treating the right person. The patient may then book an appointment, after which they will receive an SMS confirmation of the appointment and get a call from the consulting doctor at the time of the appointment. The doctor will either diagnose the patient and send them a prescription or if further tests need to be done, send them to one of our partner labs for lab work and ultimately give a patient a diagnosis.
We have been operational for a year and the uptake is unprecedented. We have had over 600,000 registrations and 100,000 consultations already within this period of time.
Because it is a digital platform, it is accessible to everyone in Rwanda with a mobile phone.
How compatible are Babyl services with local health care insurance schemes?
The clinical advice we offer is the same as you would get in a hospital, health post or clinic, only this time, it’s through a digital platform on your own mobile phone. We look at the patient journey from the time they enter a health center or clinic up until they leave and built a digital version of the whole patient journey. We are now in discussions with RSSB as the biggest insurer, to provide access to our service for all of their affiliates on both Mutuelle and RAMA schemes.
In a few months, we will put our A.I. in our call center, designated health posts and health centers. Patients that visit these health centers will benefit from this world class product that is essentially an expert doctor’s brain. We expect that this will improve the diagnoses in health centers and less cases will be referred to district hospitals. This will not only decongest the hospitals, but we expect the overall cost of health care to decrease as patients will be properly treated earlier.
How ready are you to satisfy the market in terms of skilled doctors?
Our doctors work between six to eight hours per week with us and spend the rest of their working hours in mainly government hospitals and clinics. Given the shortage of-doctors, we are sensitive not to take doctors away from serving patients in public hospitals. We only work with them on a part time basis. We give the doctors additional training in customer care, IT skills and delivering a digital service.
How much is Babyl going to invest in healthcare in Rwanda?
In the period that we have been here, we have already invested several million pounds and we continue to invest as we get closer to being part of RSSB.
Where else have you implemented similar services in Africa? What’s been your experience?
For obvious reasons, Rwanda is the first African country to which we have brought our services. It is the only country in Africa where almost the entire population has access to universal health insurance. Our vision is aligned to the Government vision, that Rwanda should be a regional digital hub. Rwanda is forward looking and quite frankly, the fact that we have been able to do more than 600,000 registrations and 100,000 consultations in a space of one year, shows that we made the right choice. The Rwandan people are ready for it. In the next year, Babyl will be expanding its services into six other countries.
As a healthcare stakeholder, what do you think are some of the barriers to affordable healthcare in Rwanda?
The biggest challenge we find in Rwanda is that we do not have enough doctors per patient, innovation and new technology can be a significant enabler so that everyone can access a doctor in an easy and convenient manner. It takes a long time for a patient, especially upcountry, to get to a health center. Even then, access to doctors is really at the district hospital level. When you make health care easily accessible, you can intervene earlier with treatment which costs less than when you intervene later and the health issue has become more serious and, inevitably, more expensive. The earlier you treat, the more likely the patient is to recover faster without complications.
How can you convince people that this is the best company to do business with?
We want to make healthcare accessible and affordable to everyone. Babyl is here to make a real difference in the lives of Rwandans’ health care. Our service was first developed in the UK where we now work with the National Health Service and then came to Rwanda. It is high quality, cost effective and easy to use. Wherever you are, you can use a mobile device to speak to one of our medical professionals.
We use Rwandan doctors who speak Kinyarwanda, English and French, and they all have many years experience plus we offer them additional training. The world is going digital and healthcare needs to be democratized and revolutionized, so that with the help of machine learning and our AI chatbot, everyone on earth can access health care. Dial *811# to register and give our service a try.
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