For a while now I've been impressed by the development of the Cape Verdean tech & start-up scene. I was interested in hearing a few stories, and wanted to understand both the motivation and challenges. In this series of interviews I'm speaking to young (start-up) entrepreneurs in Cape Verde. Despite challenging circumstances they are able to discover solutions and bring these to the market. Products that can create a better society. This is part 6:
Company Name: Health Care 2.0
Interview with: Ivan Rodrigues
Problem/Solution: Digital (tele)health care solutions
Today, in part 6 of the interviews, it's time to meet a startup that symbolizes the faith I have in the Cape Verdean Tech & Startup scene. This faith has already led me to create a new and different Sonvela, and has changed me in the process as well. With this series of interviews (I'm currently working on a few others) I want to introduce you to the talent that we have on our islands, and I want to show you what they are capable of in sometimes very difficult conditions.
These young founders & entrepreneurs find a way despite of a lack of (financial) resources and the support of their environment and different institutions. In many cases they identify problems they face themselves, or within the family, and decide to find a solution. A solution that they can later introduce to the market because these often intelligente solutions are an answer for many people.
During my converstaions with these entrepreneurs I've become convinced of the fact that they are capable of solving Cape Verde's biggest problems, using technology. Sonvela's (new) mission is to support this group of entrepreneurs and to come up with strategies that will allow talented young Cape Verdeans to innovate and bring these products to market.
Health Care 2.0 is working on very necessary improvements within the Cape Verdean health sector. I've seen many videos across Social Media, showing the sad circumstances of people being relocated from one island to another, in so called (medical) evacuations. Last week we had the case of a young woman who sadly passed away before she had a chance to arrive at one of the hospitals of Mindelo or Praia from the island of Boa Vista.
Also, the current system of patients traveling to Portugal for treatment has been in need of real innovation for a long time. It's no longer acceptable that people wait for months before their first contact with a Portugese doctor, something that Ivan addresses later in this interview.
How did you guys come up with the idea for Health 2.0?
"As a developer I have a critical look. I'm always thinking about how things can be improved, and how I would make those improvements. One day I walked by farmacy when I was out with my girlfriend. I saw a lot of people waiting in line, and this got me thinking. I don't like to wait myself, I'm the type of person who will procrastinate whenever it involves waiting in line somewhere."
"If you're sick, that is not a 'normal' situation. It's impossible for you to head out to a farmacy and spend an hour waiting in line there. So, in my opinion it's not about managing waiting lines & times, there's much more to it. I could envision a project with a marketplace for doctors, which would make the system much more accessible. This was back in 2016, when different laws prevented innovation around these things."
“When I saw the ad for the Unitel Creative Camp, I thought back about the ideas I had for the health sector. We decided it was time to go for it. It was a digital event with 48 participants, and 12 finalists where chosen. We were one of the 5 winners of the event, which took place over 18 intensive days with different types of sessions. During these sessions we would work on topics such as management, finances and project management."
What do you want to achieve with Health Care 2.0?
“We have conducted several interviews with professionals working within the health sector, and people have told us that there is a huge need for innovation. I believe the public sector is starting to catch up, and they now see that things need to change. We've created a very valuable project that covers a lot of important aspects.”
“What the cause is for a lack of innovation? Maybe people are to comfortable in their role, making it hard for them to come up with new ideas. With Health Care 2.0 it will be possible to use chat, audio and video to book an appointment. We've covered the farmacies as well. You can use the system to have your medicines delivered to your doorstep.”
“Another advantage of the system is the accessibility, both for patients and doctors. It allows people to talk to doctors on other islands easily. This opens up the market because doctors can now have patients anywhere. It works for both the public and private sectors, and is a great option for professionals looking for a higher income. I believe that the system will be a catalyst for professional development in our country's health sector.”
“Treating patients online will allow the 2 central hospitals to lower the existing pressure on the staff. We can solve the problem of people spending a lot of time in waiting rooms, and just have patients get the help they need through the app. We've also created a solution for digitizing patient files. The system is able to assist with the monthly paperwork of 50.000 medical prescriptions, that is now manually scanned and processed by the INPS.”
“We see so many possibilities for the solutions we've created. We were recently invited for a meeting with Palop health care professionals and representants from Cape Verde, Portugal and Brazil. This showed us that there are opportunities for us outside of Cape Verde as well. Not just here in our region, I believe those same opportunities exist in a country like Portugal."
“It's just unacceptable that Cape Verdean patients who travel to Portugal for treatment need to wait weeks or even months before a first meeting with a doctor. Thanks to Health Care 2.0 patients can start communicating with their doctor in Portugal before making the trip. This is something that will be a complete game changer compared to the current system.”
What would you like to see within the Cape Verdean startup ecosystem?
“We know we're taking our first steps within Tech & Startups here. But I dream of one day having a smart city here in Mindelo. And why not? I really don't see why there is so much focus on toursim, when there are other options. It's also a pity that a lot of opportunities are centralised. The island of São Vicente could become an important tech hub. Right now most is concentrated in Praia, which causes a lack of talent in other parts of the country.”
“When it comes to the current set up of different Startup Challenges, I think there is too much emphasis on ideas and prize money. Winners use the titles for status, but it should all be about the execution of an idea. That is why the Unitel Creative Camp doesn't work with prize money. Instead, you get to work with a group of mentors.”
“In the next couple of months we'll have the chance to work with different experts, to turn Health Care 2.0 into a big success.”