Malawi’s Ocliya expanding access to medical services through online platform

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As few as 400 doctors serve a population of around 16 million Malawians, but Lilongwe-based startup Ocliya is using tech to ensure patients can still get timely access to healthcare.

Founded in November 2018 and winner of the Malawian leg of the global Seedstars competition earlier this year, Ocliya was launched by Emmanuel Chatina based on his experience working as a physiotherapist at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe.

“I noticed how patients travelled all the way to do consultations which could be done remotely. This trend was common. I also noticed how expensive it was for people to access healthcare at private clinics. Most of them choose how many sessions to attend and how many not to in order to save costs. This is bad,” he told Disrupt Africa.

Ocliya uses mobile technology in a bid to ease access and lower costs. It offers three major services via its platform – the ability to search for various types of medical practitioners, online medical consultations and remote monitoring, and the ability to book home-based healthcare.

Chatina’s hope is that Ocliya can benefit from bridging the gap between a growing population in need of healthcare services and the relatively small amount of doctors practicing in the Southern African country.

“We are competing generally with traditional private clinics which have been here for a long time but are usually expensive. In the m-health arena, we are competing with projects which are usually run by developmental partners,” he said.

Bootstrapped, Ocliya is funding itself via its own revenues, earned from commission and subscription fees. It has served over 250 customers so far, but Chatina said it is only really getting started.

“Online medical consultations has the lowest of our market segments so far, but we are adding new customers each month,” he said.

Usage will grow as Ocliya expands geographically. Eighty per cent of its customers so far are in Lilongwe, be growth is the name of the game.

“We plan to expand across the country, and possibly in other African countries within five years,” Chatina said.

Funding, or lack of it, has been the primary challenge. 

“When we started we wanted to launch an app and website at the same time. We couldn’t. We have also lacked mentorship, because we are sailing seriously uncharted waters,” said Chatina.

With that in mind, the exposure and opportunities gained from the Seedstars win are valuable indeed to the young startup.

“This means so much to our startup. When I heard about Seedstars coming to Lilongwe for the first time, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Winning this challenge has been so exciting. Now Ocliya is on the global map, and I can’t wait to see everything associated with this opportunity,” said Chatina.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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