7 minute read
Startup Story

Healthtech startup Clafiya is bringing primary care services to your home.

Clafiya team posing for photo

Women-led team tackles healthcare in Africa, starting with Nigeria.

As a teenager, Jennie Nwokoye nearly lost her sibling to the inefficiencies of the U.S. healthcare system, and this experience stayed with her for years, even after she started visiting Nigeria in 2016. Despite the economic differences between the two countries, their healthcare systems have similar foundational issues. “As I experienced firsthand in the U.S., Nigeria also had this issue of lack of digestible information, fractured processes, and high costs, which leave sick people isolated as they try to navigate the space,” says Nwokoye, who founded Clafiya in 2021, aiming to increase access to primary health care services.

Primary Health Care (PHC) centers are the cornerstone of the Nigerian healthcare system, and despite being located in every local area, are grossly understaffed and underfunded. With 30,000 centers around the country and only 24,000 medical doctors available, these numbers fall short of the WHO’s recommended ratio of one doctor to 600 patients. To be able to serve the country’s 200 million population, Nigeria requires a minimum of 363,000 doctors. Nurses staff many Nigerian PHC’s, supporting up to two medical doctors, who typically rotate between different PHCs, but organizations are slow to hire more nurses.

Clafiya aims to provide jobs for nurses and meet patient needs by recruiting nurses to make house calls to patients through their platform. Clafiya helps locally-based nurses, typically women, to find jobs caring for patients in their homes. Because these nurses live within the community, there’s an extra layer of familiarity that helps keep patients at ease. “At Clafiya, we are obsessed with our patients' experience, so anything we do is only to make the service flexible and satisfactory,” says Nwokoye.

How Clafiya works

Clafiya uses Google Maps Platform technology to enable patients to locate their nearest healthcare provider. Patients can use Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) codes or the Clafiya web app to register and schedule in-person consultations with nurses and community health care officers for diagnosis and treatment recommendations. “Nurses are already trained to offer PHC services, but there aren't enough jobs in which to utilize them,” says Nwokoye. “This helps close the gap, providing job opportunities and better service to people.”

While the Clafiya platform currently has algorithms that perform the matching, they have plans to leverage Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to do more. “This will help us to reduce our client matching to a shorter time and improve diagnostic success, as we also record symptoms and diagnosis on the platform,” Nwokoye explains.

Clafiya generates revenue through subscription plans (B2C), through subscriptions with SMEs employees (B2B2C), through partnerships with HMOs or hospitals themselves, and most recently, with schools. UNESCO data shows that over 20 million children miss school in Nigeria for various reasons, including health reasons like malnutrition and respiratory diseases. Clafiya hopes that partnering with schools to ease access to healthcare for children will help address these leading health concerns.

Nwokoye tells the story of a patient from Magodo-Isheri, a small community between Lagos State and Ogun State, who was so unwell that he was unable to drive to his registered PHC. He used the Clafiya platform to register a house call. “The patient was diagnosed using our rapid diagnosis tests and was able to get his medicine from a registered pharmacy that is in partnership with Clafiya,” says Nwokoye. “He upgraded his plan with us from an individual to a family plan, as he wanted his family to also benefit from this service”. To help patients navigate the fragmented health care system, Clafiya supports the continuum of care by also connecting them to pharmacies, hospitals and behavioral health specialists.

Participating in Google for Startups Programs

Clafiya participated in Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa in 2022, as the company was looking to make improvements and relaunch their application. Nwokoye says the mentorship program was particularly helpful. “We were able to connect to a VP of sales at a top company, who understood what we were trying to build and had experience in this area,” Nwokoye says. “The mentor was also able to guide us on technical business development, but most important to us is the way he continues to champion our work, connecting us to several investment opportunities.”

Following their experience in Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa, Clafiya was accepted into the Black Founders Fund in Africa, receiving equity-free funding from Google. “Another standout moment, aside from the funding, has been sessions around storytelling and brand building, including a session we had with Mzamo Masito, Google’s Director of Marketing in Africa,” says Nwokoye. “That session made us reexamine our answers to the questions ‘Why do we exist?’ and ‘Whom are we serving?’

The Clafiya team has also collaborated with other startups in their cohorts and across Africa.

Looking to the future

There's still a pressing need to find ways for people to get access to healthcare funds, especially in locations where people don’t make enough money at work to afford rising healthcare costs. Clafiya is exploring partnerships with financial institutions to provide financing options to patients on their platform. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare system deficiencies have become more evident, and Clafiya’s vision of scaling across Nigeria and into similar African markets is an ambitious one. Clafiya hopes to bring the company’s African solution to the global stage, to give everyone access to affordable and convenient healthcare.

Learn more about Clafiya