Nigeria – Saudi Arabia: Nigerian healthtech Helium eyes Riyadh

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Wednesday, 17 November 2021 18:23

Photo supplied.

Nigerian healthtech Helium Health plans to expand into Saudi Arabia to tap the market for digital hospital management, CEO Adegoke Olubusi tells The Africa Report.

The company will be going though Saudi regulatory procedures in coming months and aims to enter the country in the latter part of 2022, Olubusi says in Lagos.

Many healthcare facilities in Saudi Arabia are still completely paper based, which increases retrieval time and mean less time is spent on patient care, Olubusi says. A Saudi regulatory push where compliance has to be carried out by digital means, especially for insurance, is making paper records harder to sustain, he says. Establishing a physical presence in Saudi Arabia will be “critical” for Helium, he adds.

The Covid-19 pandemic has stimulated investment in African health-tech start-ups, which reached $103m in 2020, almost four times the 2019 level, according to Control Risks and Oxford Economics Africa. Helium this month bought Meddy, a doctor-booking platform operating in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in what the companies believe is the first expansion of an African healthtech outside the continent.

Meddy works with about 150 private-healthcare providers in Qatar and the UAE. Many of these also operate in Saudi Arabia, making entry a logical case of following the client, says Meddy CEO Haris Aghadi. The companies are already in contact with Saudi providers, he says.

  • Aghadi points to “rooms of patient records” as eating up real estate that could be used for healthcare.
  • He describes the regulatory process needed to enter Saudi Arabia as “fairly standard”, adding that regulators are keen to encourage healthtech providers to enter the country.
  • The companies are considering multiple Saudi cities where they may operate.
  • Helium predicts that digital infrastructure will account for 30% of healthcare investment in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region from 2023 to 2030.
  • The GCC is made up of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Cloud-based solution

Helium was co-founded by Olubusi, Tito Ovia and Dimeji Sofowora in 2016 . The company is present in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, Kenya, and Uganda and says it facilitates 300,000 patient visits each month. The expansion to UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia is covered by existing funding, Olubusi says.

  • Helium’s main product is a cloud-based health records and hospital-management solution. It also plans to offer its revenue-management and analytics products in Saudi Arabia.
  • The company raised $10m in a Series A funding round in May 2020, co-led by Global Ventures and Africa Healthcare Masterfund.

The purchase of Meddy by Helium will mean that both companies will be able to increase the value of their customer bases, Aghadi says. There is “very strong synergy” between companies’ products.

Olubusi says that Meddy’s product, now renamed HeliumDoc, focuses on interaction between provider and patient, whereas Helium’s existing product concentrates on the provider’s information management system. Health providers in the Gulf region, Olubusi says, previously had to “hack together five or ten different tools. Now they have just one.”

Bottom Line

Helium and Meddy are betting that time is up for paper-based Saudi hospital records.

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