We are all prone to illnesses and accidents but what happens when our records are not available to inform the doctors during treatment?
Many people experience difficulty in hospitals as their medical cards or files cannot be easily retrieved from among a plethora of papers; and without medical records, treatment becomes expensive, delayed, and the quality of healthcare provided is drastically reduced.
Tobiloba Olusola encountered this problem in the United States when his brother had an accident that required urgent medical attention, but as his previous medical files could not be quickly recovered from Nigeria, the treatment was delayed.
While this experience would have many grumbling about Nigeria’s messy healthcare management, Tobiloba had made it a goal to turn this pain into gain.
As a young boy, Tobiloba grew up in Ibadan with his family where he attended Command Day Secondary School, Odogbo. He proceeded to Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State to major in Electronic and Electrical Engineering for 5 years.
From there, he worked for several technology companies, including Huawei, an original equipment manufacturer and Danami – A Nokia Contractor, he told CRESTHUB in an interview.
The Building blocks for Ilerah
Mastering the skills Tobiloba acquired from school and beyond later became a lifeline to start his company, Ilerah.
An invitation from a friend who worked in a hospital to review their processes also played a huge role in the idea to start a company.
“The idea to start a company came 3 years ago. I worked in the healthcare sector and my role was to optimize business processes for efficiency. I looked at processes, optimized and removed waste activities, and implemented the new process. Sometimes, that would include building a new application or improving an existing one to support the new process.
“Also, a friend of mine who works at the hospital called me and asked for my help to look into some hospital operations because they implemented a new system that didn’t quite work with their business process. This invite broadened my experience”, he said.
Tobiloba’s past experiences and skills which include product development and management of Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) helped his understanding of their problems.
A growing curiosity
Tobiloba developed a curiosity about medical records, wondering if the lack of alignment between process and software, or the lack of software altogether was a general trend.
“Imagine being treated at a hospital that does not have your record and no idea whether you are allergic to certain medications. This reduces the quality of health care provided because they lack all the information needed to treat you,” he said.
After identifying the challenges plaguing the Electronic Health Records industry in Nigeria, he began building solutions.
“I’m not a doctor but I have experience building processes and apps within the healthcare space. I’ve worked with technology companies in the past, so I bring everything I’ve learned into my work operations and projects at Ilerah.”
Tobiloba also identified the challenge faced by Nigerian healthcare companies using foreign Electronic Health Records (EHRs) which are not designed to meet the needs of the local market.
“I took a look at existing foreign EHRs/ EMRs in Nigeria and realised they are not relevant to a local market. If you buy EPIC, for instance, they use an international coding standard. In Nigeria, we don’t use that – Doctors write down their diagnoses. In foreign countries, the US for instance, each diagnosis has a standardized code attached to it.
“Yes it can be used in Nigeria but it’s not relevant to the local market. So what we do is merge that international coding standard and give them the option to use their diagnosis when using our platform”, he said.
By merging foreign and local technology, Ilerah can localise usage and offer tailor-made solutions to Nigeria’s society.
Getting hospitals to adopt EHR
Getting hospitals to adopt electronic health records away from the paper system that has been in use for decades will take a lot of convincing. According to Tobiloba, hospitals are so used to the manual paper system that going electronic most times proves difficult.
Another discouraging factor Tobiloba identifies is the cost of software given the exchange rate.
“The cost of buying software, getting a third-party to operate, run and maintain the operations for hospitals is very expensive”.
Tobiloba put this into consideration and that is what makes Ilerah a cloud-based EHR where, “We do the maintenance, management and updates. All you’ve got to do is use it,” he said.
The Ilerah technology
Ilerah is currently a remote startup based in Nigeria with teams spread across several states including Kaduna, Lagos and Ibadan. The startup is also envisioning growth across the South West.
Ilerah’s platform allows hospitals to integrate whatever payment providers customers prefer. This makes revenue collection more seamless and reduces the risk of fraud. The company also supports a dashboard that facilitates administrative functions, giving a summary view of practice with inbuilt security.
The company also puts into consideration the uniqueness of hospitals by building tail tailor-made solutions based on specifications. And while there are arguments that EHRs only offer data storage and patient management functionalities, Ilerah seeks to break the stereotype with its soon-to-be-launched product.
Security is core at Ilerah
Tobiloba told CRESTHUB that patient security is important to Ilerah.
The company is built with end-to-end encryption that prevents Ilerah from gaining access to patient details.
“We don’t have access to a hospital’s account. Each account on our platform is fragmented from the others. Moreso, you need permission from your hospital before gaining access to patient records”, the CEO said.
“Cybersecurity is a two-way responsibility. In the healthcare space, we have the role of a business associate (BA). We can do so much to secure hospital records but hospitals also need to train their staff. As long as their staff have access to patient data, they must go through PHI/PII training to understand the hospital’s responsibility.
“Even now while several hospitals do not have a digital platform, they have the responsibility to secure the paper system,” he said.
When Ilerah started, the company had to build, deconstruct and build again to ensure smooth operations.
“We were building up to a point and then we realised to ensure security and make sure the services we offer can be put out, we needed to rebuild. We had to cut off one of the services we were using at the time and switch to in-house service; building from scratch,” he said.
Funding & growth
Ilerah has been bootstrapped since its launch in 2021. Tobiloba believes that to get investors on board he needs to set up strong strategies first. According to the founder, Ilerah has witnessed a 300% month-on-month growth with 30 hospitals listed on its platform in the last 3 months.
Ilerah is currently working to get more hospitals to adapt its products.