PUBLISHED: June 20, 2021
Read more about the initiative in TechCrunch; www.techcrunch.com/2021/06/10/new-south-african-partnership-gets-3m-launches-telehealth-product/
May 2021, Johannesburg, South Africa – Investment firm Webrock Ventures has announced a partnership with the South African digital health company Healthforce, owned by South Africa’s leading retail pharmacy chain Dis-Chem, and Swedish health tech company Doktor.se to launch an app-based telehealth service in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The new telehealth company in sub-Saharan Africa builds on Webrock’s success with ViBe Saúde (www.vibesaude.com), the leading telehealth app in Brazil with over 1,5 million downloads since launch in July 2020. Healthforce, the venture’s African execution partner, is a digital health company with a network of 450 primary care clinics across South Africa. The new venture will start in Healthforce’s home country, South Africa, for further roll-out in a number of other African countries.
For the early detection and treatment of health conditions, easy access to primary healthcare is crucial. Primary healthcare is best delivered by teams of primary care clinicians coordinating care between them. However, ubiquitous access to such care is scant across sub-Saharan Africa. There is a real opportunity for a digital-first healthcare solution to rapidly scale access to team-based care, which can reduce the cost of quality care while measurably improving health outcomes, reach patients in remote areas, and alleviate the pressure on the traditional medical support systems.
The African telehealth company has closed a seed round of USD 3 million to begin its operation and launch its app. A larger Series A round is planned for late 2021. The core technology is provided by the Swedish company Doktor.se, the second most downloaded doctor app in Europe. Integrating Doktor.se’s cutting-edge technology into a broader primary care offering allows the African company to take a giant leap forward in offering a complete digital primary care platform to the continent.
With single-digit health insurance coverage in sub-Saharan Africa, the company will focus on B2C through a freemium-type offering. The new company will provide accessible quality care for large populations on the continent that currently rely on stressed public health care systems. The platform offers on-demand and scheduled consultations with nurses, general practitioners, and mental health professionals provide chronic care management and will be integrated with Dis-Chems online retail pharmacy.
Globally, telehealth investments have skyrocketed and increased by more than 50% since the start of the pandemic. With many of the fastest-growing economies in the world investors are now turning to Africa as a major growth region for such high-demand services.
Comment from Saul Kornik, Co-Founder and CEO at Healthforce:
“Nothing is evolving our society more rapidly than technology, which is bringing services right up close to the consumer. Through this partnership with Webrock, we will take our tech-enabled team-based care model in clinics a giant leap closer to the patient by literally putting it in their hands. This new venture will extend the Healthforce ecosystem, expanding the skills and reach of the healthcare teams that seek to solve patients’ – and eventually populations’ – health care problems. Ultimately, all that any sick person wants is to be seen as a whole person and to receive the necessary care to make them feel better.”
Comment from Joshin Raghubar, General Partner at Webrock Ventures Africa:
“Given the speed at which telehealth has grown over the past few years in the world, coupled with our experience from successfully building Brazil’s largest telehealth company, Vibe Saude, there is a window of opportunity to transform access to healthcare on the African continent. With a large population and a rapidly increasing smartphone and internet penetration, Africa is an obvious and attractive healthtech market opportunity, and Webrock Ventures is excited to be part of this transformation.”
Comment from Martin Lindman, co-founder, and CEO at Doktor.se:
“We are happy to be a part of unlocking the potential of telemedicine in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve done this before with Webrock Ventures in Brazil and are proud to form a strategic partnership to repeat this on a new market. Thanks to Healthforce’s impressive infrastructure, we believe that it will be possible to launch better and more accessible healthcare for everyone at a record pace. “
Key stats about the sub-Saharan African economy:
Population: 1.1 billion people (growing to 2.8 billion by 2050)
Unique mobile subscribers: 500 million people
Smartphone users: 250 million (growing to 678 million connections by 2025)
Mobile data traffic: 1.6GB per subscriber per month (growing 4.4x to 7.1GB by 2025)
Healthcare market: $90bn
Health insurance coverage: Single-digit across the countries of the region, except South Africa with 16% coverage
Healthforce aims to improve health care through multidisciplinary clinical teams. To date, Healthforce has set up nurses in over 450 bricks-and-mortar clinics to act as the lowest-cost single-entry point into the healthcare system. From there, Healthforce-enabled clinics use its technology to, nearly immediately, access doctors through video telemedicine. Over 1 million nurse consultations and over 110 000 telemedicine consultations have been conducted on Healthforce’s platform. Healthforce was founded in 2018 in South Africa.
Doktor.se, founded in 2016, is a digital-first healthcare company and the second most downloaded doctor app in Europe. Its platform allows patients to contact healthcare professionals through their smartphones across the whole spectrum of primary care. The company is offering telemedicine services in Sweden. Also, it provides its telemedicine platform to the European veterinary care chain Anicura as well as Webrock Venture’s portfolio company ViBe Saúde in Brazil. In 2020 over 1,2 million patient consultations were done by Doktor.se, and all the companies’ healthcare apps are top-rated on App Store and Google Play.