Kenyan startup TIBU launched to decentralise primary outpatient care

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Kenyan e-health startup TIBU has launched a digital platform that decentralises primary outpatient care to bring it directly to patients, wherever they may be. 

Conceived in 2016, built in 2019, and launched to the public earlier this year, TIBU is an on-demand platform that connects people to healthcare workers in real-time, who deploy to a location and time of the patient’s choosing. 

“Our health workers deploy with our patent-pending health kits to ensure that all services found in a clinic are delivered in the comfort of peoples’ homes, including labs and diagnostics,” Jason Carmichael, TIBU’s chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder, told Disrupt Africa.

By connecting patients with healthcare workers, equipped with medical kits, the platform decentralises primary outpatient care, while it also allows patients to have their medical records encrypted and securely stored on their TIBU application.

“Patients no longer have to run from one hospital to another to obtain paper or digital health records. This saves time and money. Each medical consultation has a dedicated records page where all health, lab, diagnosis, prescription and billing information are securely stored,” said Carmichael.

Such a consolidated, unalterable and longitudinal patient-level health database that is easily interpretable is particularly useful for risk-based industries such as the insurance sector, as well as for any future attending health worker. 

“To push this even further, our team has begun designing and building patient-level analytics to better understand and track health over time,” said Carmichael.

Moreover, the TIBU platform links to a lab partner in Nairobi, with all lab requests carried out through the platform on the healthcare worker’s app. No transactions occur outside the platform. 

“Upon a request, our system automatically triggers the lab courier service and within minutes the sample is collected and delivered to the lab. This process is automated and with standardised pricing,” Carmichael said. 

An end-to-end healthcare solution, then, that solves the problem of unemployment or underemployment within Kenya’s healthcare sector, and makes obtaining primary outpatient healthcare services more convenient, personal and cost effective. 

“People spend hours in traffic and waiting rooms for conditions that can be treated in the comfort of their homes and within minutes, not hours. Further, patients are routinely billed for work they do not need in the current system and are also not in control of their health records. We see TIBU as a platform that can bring transparency to a system that has been marred by corruption, scandals and inefficiencies,” said Carmichael.

The startup’s first few years of development and research were self-funded, but following its proof of concept last year, TIBU received a US$100,000 funding round from Japan-based, Africa-focused early-stage VC fund Kepple Africa Ventures. 

“We are currently seeking additional funding from early-stage backers to further move our business forward alongside our strategic partners on the ground,” Carmichael said.

The initial uptake has been positive. TIBU has already had around 300 users, with Carmichael saying reviews have been good.

“To date, we have not really engaged in marketing as we wanted to have our finger on the pulse of the care being delivered, and identify and fix any pain points before marketing the product more broadly,” he said. 

“Having worked through this, we are now slowly starting to market the product. We are extremely happy with the way the roll-out is going.”

Like most African healthcare startups, the outbreak of the COVID-19 has asked questions of TIBU. The company has responded by entering into a partnership with Lancet Labs to offer home-based COVID-19 testing in a number of counties of Kenya. 

“This will be powered by TIBU’s platform, and the labs processed by Lancet, which is government-approved to test COVID-19. Both parties are extremely excited to be offering such a tech-enabled service,” said Carmichael.

TIBU’s core offering, meanwhile, is for now only available in Nairobi. Carmichael said it does plan on expanding to other major cities, such as Mombasa, and is also looking at additional African countries. 

“Following national expansion, we are targeting markets such as Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda and Ghana, to name a few. Our model is applicable across markets,” he said.

The startup makes money from both consultation fees, and labs and procedures carried out on-site. 

“We are currently operating with a laboratory partner in Kenya and are looking for pharmaceutical partners that would allow us to request medications during a consultation. Over time, however, TIBU intends on owning the laboratory and pharmaceutical processes in house. This is planned for year two of the business,” said Carmichael.

As ever, the main challenge is around affecting behavioural change in order for the platform to scale.

“Typically, when people think healthcare, they think “clinic” or “hospital”. They do not normally think “care at home” or that 50 to 60 per cent of the services they want, including lab services, can be delivered in the comfort of their homes,” Carmichael said. 

“This is especially relevant during COVID-19. The same way Airbnb built a brand around “the experience”, we see TIBU as the same, an experience. As such, our work at TIBU is to show people our model is a safe and professional alternative that will cost them less and provide for a better experience.”

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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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