For the longest time in Uganda and other African countries, patient data was always stored manually on paper. If you think back to before the mid 2000’s, every time you visited a hospital, you were given a form to fill and the hospital would create a physical file for you. All this was done manually.
This made it difficult for hospitals to integrate pieces of data, share patient data during referrals, monitor flow of drugs and in the worst cases, patient misdiagnosis.
Wilson Kutegeka, a health professional in Uganda experienced firsthand the risk of such operations and he knew he had to think of a solution.
An avoidable situation leads to loss of life
After working in the medical field in Uganda for many years, Wilson keenly observed some of the challenges and gaps in the field that unfortunately led to avoidable consequences and loss of lives.
In 2006, as Wilson was going about his work facilitating HIV/AIDS research in a local healthcare centre in Uganda, they received news that a 14-year-old child who was one of the patients in that facility had passed away. The child was staying with his grandmother who was not able to come pick his medication on time.
This situation was deeply saddening for Wilson because at that time, the facility had enough resources to reach out to this child and deliver the medicine but because there was no system that could alert them that the boy had missed his last medication appointment, it was too late to save his life.
At that moment, Wilson’s priority became developing a system that would send alerts every time someone missed their appointment. He was able to adjust the current facility’s system to manage appointments so that the doctor, pharmacist or any other staff member can schedule appointments and be notified in case a patient has not shown up and all this happens online.
Later on, Wilson realized the need to interconnect the different service points so that it makes it easy to share medical data within the healthcare facility. The positive impact from this initiative in that one facility inspired Wilson to take the solution to more hospitals and clinics in Uganda since most of them faced that common challenge of not being able to track patient data.
That same year, ClinicMaster was established as a health information management system capable of automating patient transactions in a hospital/clinic on a daily basis.
Facilities that use this solution do not have to record patient information on paper. Information is captured, stored, and shared electronically within different service points at the hospital and different hospitals can share data among themselves during patient referrals.
How it works
Once ClinicMaster gets to a hospital/clinic, they request the facility for access to their network service points where they install their application in each point: reception, lab, doctor, cashier, pharmacy, radiology, triage, in patient, etc. All this points then connect with one central server.
When a patient is at the reception, their bio data is captured, and the system gives each patient a unique patient number to be used in subsequent visits. At that point, the next service point gets alerted, whether it is cashier, lab, triage, doctor etc.
For example, if it is the doctor who is alerted, he/she can see the patient’s data even before they come in. During consultation, the doctor keys in all relevant notes in the system and if they make a diagnostic request such as a lab request, the lab is alerted.
Once lab results are ready, the doctor is alerted via the system and the patient gets an SMS to notify them that their results are ready, and they can go back to see the doctor.
The doctor can then make his diagnosis and when writing the prescription, he can see which drugs are available at the pharmacy which then gets alerted.
When the patient buys the medicine from the pharmacy, the inventory is adjusted online as well. The cashier is also alerted, and they are able to generate an invoice for the patient.
All services follow a similar cycle for each unique service point in the hospital/clinic.
ClinicMaster also provides trainings to hospital staff on using the system and depending on the hospital’s needs, they customize certain areas of the application to meet those needs. They also provide regular support services to the hospital staff.
Marketing their solution to health facilities
ClinicMaster’s main strategy is to provide the best quality services to the few clients they initially get, and these clients have always referred them to other hospitals.
“In Uganda, most doctors work in different hospitals. Even those in government facilities part time in some private facilities and so these doctors help to spread the word about ClinicMaster and the efficiency of our product,” Wilson said.
Currently, ClinicMaster serves about 120 hospitals and clinics most of which are in Uganda and the rest are in Kenya, South Sudan, and Rwanda.
Proud moments and impacting Uganda’s health sector
For any business, customer retention is a key business success factor. It shows that customers are satisfied with your solution and are willing to continue working with you. Since ClinicMaster started, most of their initial clients still use their services because of the consistency of the service.
The team has also grown from 3 when the company was started to 18 full time employees.
However, Wilson admits that their impact to the healthcare industry is something he is proud of,
“Our solution has helped medical professionals realise the importance of sharing medical data electronically. This has greatly reduced misdiagnosis and phased out the use of paper.”
ClinicMaster has also received a number of local and international recognition such as:
- The Microsoft ICT Award
- Innovation and ICT Award from the Uganda Investment Authority
- 2015 Best Health App by MTN Uganda
- Best ICT Innovation support award by the Ministry of ICT Uganda
Addressing the major challenge faced in the business
Meeting delivery deadlines is a major challenge for ClinicMaster. Being able to adjust the system to meet the unique needs of each healthcare facility is a strong point for them but also presents the biggest challenge.
“Clients will from time to time request for customisations to the system which they expect to be done immediately but that is not how the system works. To make even a slight modification requires us to undergo several processes that are time consuming and this is usually hard for clients to understand,” Wilson admits.
However, the have put together an organized system where hospital personnel can bring up any requests through a formal channel. They try to effect all changes brought up in at least 2 months, but Wilson also says that every year, they will be having an annual release incorporating all new features as opposed to adhoc releases.
Value from the GrowthAfrica Accelerator
When Wilson joined the GrowthAfrica accelerator, his scope was limited to being introduced to potential investors and networking with other entrepreneurs. However, after a few months in the programme, Wilson’s experience opened his eyes to an in-depth understanding of the business.
They received support in streamlining a structured costing of their product based on the value the solution provides. The programme also exposed ClinicMaster to the gaps and challenges in the business and practical solutions to address these gaps.
“The GrowthAfrica accelerator really changed my perspective on investors. I always looked at investment as an opportunity to improve the business, but I learnt that investors also want to put their money in a business that will also profit them and I have to improve my business in order to attract investors,” Wilson said.
Being able to receive support in strategically communicating about their brand and creating a clear identity for ClinicMaster was another key takeaway for Wilson.
Advice for fellow entrepreneurs
“Most entrepreneurs tend to look at successful brands and duplicate what they do but it is important to identify the strength of your business and concentrate on that. Each business is different,” Wilson said.
What is in the future?
In the next 5 years, Wilson hopes to maintain the consistency of ClinicMaster’s solution. However, they are also focused on adjusting different sections of the application to make it more competitive and adopting newer technologies and different platforms.
“We are looking at creating an information system where data is shared centrally and even bringing individual patients to be part of the system. Patients should be able to schedule appointments via phone, find out which doctor is available, retrieve their medical history, etc. That is our plan for the near future,” Wilson concluded.