According to this World Health Organization (WHO) article on cancer treatment, identifying symptomatic patients as early as possible gives them the best chance of successful treatment. While the piece is a template for cancer treatment, it applies to any disease, deadly or not.
Diagnostics is central to healthcare; without it, doctors and doctors cannot offer treatment. But in emerging markets like Africa, where infrastructure is lacking and the doctor-patient ratio is as high as 1:5,000, regular checkups are often seen as an afterthought.
Healthtracka, a Lagos-based health tech looking to change this story and bring home the adage “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 along with Victor Amusan in May 2021. And the news comes five months after joining the Techstars Toronto accelerator program last October.
Dare-Johnson worked in healthcare for several years before starting Healthtracka. At one point, she led marketing efforts at a diagnostic center. Still, it wasn’t love for her job that prompted the CEO to tackle this issue; instead, it was a belated first-hand experience of the problems, or no diagnosis can cause.
“As a scientist, I studied biochemistry in school and worked in the lab, so I knew how important diagnostics were. But it wasn’t until about four years ago, after my father passed away, that I started getting a closer look at the space,” the founder and CEO told TechCrunch in an interview. “We live in Africa, where the healthcare infrastructure is poor. So you’d think that would make people more conscious about their health, knowing that no one is going to save them. Unfortunately, that is not the case.”
Although she appeared fit and healthy at first glance, Dare-Johnson said her father had long had unnoticed health problems related to diabetes and hypertension. 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 in hospital.
The use of telemedicine in Africa has skyrocketed since the pandemic as it addresses some of these challenges that discourage patients from performing routine checkups. However, there are gaps in what telemedicine can cover. For example, after most doctor consultations, patients must visit hospitals for lab testing, which accounts for up to 70% of all clinical decision-making. Then there’s the convenience issue when patients are reluctant to visit a lab or hospital.
“These were some of the issues I saw clearly and I wondered how we could get healthcare to that level where you can be at home and access it seamlessly,” she said. “We thought this could be a game changer for how to improve care delivery in Africa. Someone had to get into that space to think about how to solve these operational challenges, build the logistics, technology and infrastructure to to support the idea of lab testing at home.”
Healthtracka’s offering is a website where individuals can book their lab tests online, have their samples collected at home and receive 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, working with lab centers — which send their phlebotomists to customers’ homes — to make diagnoses. Dare-Johnson said the team’s experience in the diagnostic field is helping to create quality checklists to vet these lab centers, one of which meets standard ISO lab accreditation.
Healthtracka also works with doctors to review the results and specialists for further consultation. But while a typical test covers phlebotomists’ travel and doctors’ assessment results, customers pay extra when Healthtracka puts them in touch with specialists if the diagnosis is of concern.
“If you do your full body check with us, and there are indicators showing that you need to pay attention to some of your markers, which our in-house doctors are responding to,” the CEO said. “But if they think you should ask for specialist advice about the marker of the result, we will refer you to a specialist.”
Healthtracka’s network of phlebotomists has grown 20x to more than 100 since launch. And, according to Dare-Johnson, the company has delivered nearly 7,000 tests to the home. As a result, turnover grows by 30% month-on-month.
The company takes three approaches to pursue greater growth and diversify its revenue streams. First, it is launching subscriptions for its retail customers. The second is betting on its B2B game: providing APIs for telehealth service providers, hospitals and pharmacies to do blood tests for their patients at home. Third, the healthtech company aims to expand its presence beyond seven Nigerian cities to Kenya and Ghana before the end of the year.
“Our progress has somehow changed from B2C to an infrastructure game. We want to enable digital diagnostics and enable healthcare providers to reach their customers where they feel comfortable,” said the CEO. “This will help reach more people, save more lives and ensure better healthcare in Africa.”
The funding will help Healthtracka in its next phase of growth as it also scales up its B2B2C offering, where partner companies in Nigeria can deliver tests to their employees at home.
Investors in this round include Africa-focused early stage VC Ingressive Capital and US-based venture capital fund Hustle Fund. Angel investors included Alumni Angels Alliance and Flying Doctors.
“Ifeoluwa is hungry and very smart. Not only have we used HealthTracka’s services anonymously and have a 10/10 experience, we really recognized what this could become across the continent, even just communicating with her team for testing,” said Maya Horgan Famodu, founder of Ingressive Capital on the increase. “The product is of high quality, on time, affordable and opens the door to 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 short list that includes French and Ivorian Susu and Nigeria-based Medsaf as one of the few health tech-backed startups with indigenous female CEOs to raise more than $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 like this one are a testament to the fact that female investors are walking the talk and collectively improving access to capital for female founders.