According to this World Health Organization (WHO) article on treating cancer, detecting symptomatic patients as early as possible gives them the best chance for successful treatment. Though the piece is a template for cancer treatment, it applies to any disease, deadly or not.
Diagnostics is at the center of healthcare; without it, doctors and physicians cannot offer treatment. But in emerging markets like Africa, where infrastructure is lacking and the doctor-to-patient ratio stands at a staggering 1: 5,000, regular checkups are often considered an afterthought.
Healthtracka, a Lagos-based healthtech seeking to change this narrative and drum home the proverb “prevention is better than cure” with its at-home lab testing platform, has raised $ 1.5 million in seed funding. Ifeoluwa Dare-Johnson launched the company with Victor Amusan in May 2021. And the news comes five months after its participation in the Techstars Toronto accelerator program last October.
Dare-Johnson worked for several years in the healthcare space before starting Healthtrack. At some point, she led marketing efforts at a diagnostic center. Yet, it wasn’t a love for her work that pushed the chief executive to tackle this problem; instead, it was a firsthand experience of the issues late, or no diagnostics can cause.
“As a scientist, I studied biochemistry in school and worked in the lab, so I knew how important diagnostics was. But it wasn’t until about four years ago, when my dad had passed, that I started to look closely into space, ”the founder and CEO told TechCrunch in an interview. “We live in Africa, where healthcare infrastructure is poor. So you would think that that would make people more conscious about their health, knowing nobody will save them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. ”
Though seemingly fit and healthy on the surface, Dare-Johnson said her dad had undetected health issues relating to diabetes and hypertension for a long time. While millions of Africans are guilty of personal health miscalculations, other factors contribute to irregular checkups such as waiting times and slow doctor consultations when present in a hospital.
Telemedicine usage in Africa has skyrocketed since the pandemic as it addresses some of these challenges discouraging patients from doing routine checkups. However, there are gaps in what telemedicine can cover. For instance, after most doctor consultations, patients are required to visit hospitals for lab tests, which makes up to 70% of all clinical decision-making. Then there’s the issue of convenience when patients feel reluctant to visit a laboratory or hospital.
“These were some of the problems that I saw clearly and wondered how we could get healthcare to that level where you can be at home and access it seamlessly,” she said. “We thought that could be a game changer to how healthcare delivery can be improved in Africa. Somebody needed to come into that space to think about how to solve these operational challenges, build the logistics, technology, and the infrastructure to support the idea of at-home lab testing. ”
Healthtracka’s offering is a website where individuals can book their lab tests online, have their samples collected at home, and get their results via email within 48 hours. The tests range from fertility and STD tests to full body count and COVID tests.
The one-year-old healthtech focuses on preventive care and partners with lab centers — which send their phlebotomists to customers’ homes — to diagnose. Dare-Johnson said the team’s experience in the diagnostic field helps it create quality checklists to vet these lab centers, one of which is meeting the standard ISO laboratory accreditation.
Healthtracka also works with doctors to review results and specialists for further consultation. But while a typical test covers phlebotomists ‘trips and doctors’ reviewing results, customers pay extra when Healthtracka connects them with specialists if the diagnosis is worrying.
“If you do your full body checkup with us, and there are indicators that show you need to pay attention to some of your markers, which our internal doctors cater to,” said the CEO. “But if they feel you need to seek a specialist opinion on the result’s marker, then we refer you to a specialist.”
Healthtracka’s network of phlebotomists has increased 20x since its launch to over 100. And according to Dare-Johnson, the company has delivered close to 7,000 tests at home. Its revenue is growing 30% month-on-month as a result.
The company is taking three approaches to pursue more growth and diversify its revenue streams. First, it is launching subscription plans for its retail customers. The second is betting on its B2B play: offering APIs for telehealth service providers, hospitals, and pharmacies to provide at-home blood testing for their patients. Third, the healthtech company is looking to extend its presence beyond seven Nigerian cities to Kenya and Ghana before the end of the year.
“Our progress has moved from being B2C to an infrastructure play, somehow. We want to power digital diagnostics and empower healthcare providers to reach their customers where they are comfortable, ”the chief executive said. “This will help reach more people, save more lives, and ensure that healthcare is better in Africa.”
The funding will assist Healthtracka in its next growth phase as it also scales its B2B2C offering where partner companies in Nigeria can deliver at-home testing to their employees.
Investors in this round include Africa-focused early-stage VC Ingressive Capital and US-based venture fund Hustle Fund. Angel investors included Alumni Angels Alliance and Flying Doctors.
“Ifeoluwa is hungry and very bright. Not only did we anonymously use HealthTracka’s services diligently and have a 10/10 experience, we truly recognized what this could become across the continent, even from just interacting with her team for tests, ”said Maya Horgan Famodu, founder of Ingressive Capital on the raise. “The product is high quality, on time, affordable, and unlocking the door for a healthier Africa.”
African health and biotech raised $ 392 million in funding in 2021; less than $ 2 million was raised by female healthtech founders. Healthtracka joins a very brief list that includes the likes of French and Ivorian-based Susu and Nigerian-based Medsaf as one of the few healthtech venture-backed startups with indigenous female CEOs to have raised over $ 1 million in a single round.
A common theme among some of Healthtracka’s investors — Ingressive, Hustle, and Flying Doctors, including FirstCheck Africa, one of the startup’s first backers — is that they are female-led. Venture rounds such as this are a testament to the fact that women investors are walking the talk and collectively improving access to capital for women founders.