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Sunday, 3 July 2022

Healthcare operators better get on the innovation train

What’s next for healthtech in Egypt and how can healthcare operators catch up: Healthtech startups are having a good year in Egypt, with investment rounds from the likes of Egypt-based Rology and Otida. Today, we go beyond the startups to look at the healthtech that is moving the industry and what trends industry insiders expect, from both the startups and traditional healthcare providers.

We also explore how traditional healthcare companies can adapt to the new tech: What we found is that healthcare operators are indeed adopting new tech, and some are even being developed in-house. That said, insiders see M&As as the best way to go about acquiring tech and expect this trend to heat up. They also recommend establishing tech departments, as well as leverage cross-industry partnerships.

But first, an overview of the healthtech pervading in the market: For startups, the big trend appears to be visitation booking apps. Of the 53 healthtech startups tracked by the CIT Ministry in 2021, about a quarter focus on facilitating bookings for patients.

Other trends in startup land: The remaining look at practice management, procurement, virtual healthcare and health information, diagnostics, ins. and emergency responses.

What tech do traditional healthcare providers like? Having a one-stop-shop for medical records and services, executive director for strategy and business operations at Cleopatra Hospital Group (CHG) Hassan Fikry tells us. “The most important component of digitizing healthcare is to have access to all healthcare services online and having your holistic healthcare file on one digital platform,” he adds.

CHG developed and launched a patient-facing electronic medical record (EMR) system, similar to e-banking portals, combining patient history and accessibility. The records are accessible through the website via a unique patient identification code. Patients can log into the system, book their appointments, see their lab work, x-rays, and medical history, as well as order prescribed medication and get second opinions. “It’s a consolidation of what different companies are trying to do,” Fikry says.

What areas can we expect the healthtech industry in Egypt to focus on in the future? The emergence of fintech will pave the way for improving access and affordability to healthcare. “We are already witnessing an enhancement in the regulations and legislations in countries such as Egypt to build the foundation for Fintech’s surgence, and we’re bound to see major

integration between these two industries in the coming years,” Vezeeta founder and CEO Amir Barsoum believes.

Fikry believes the future lies in diagnostics and follow-up through technology. This means, for example, that a postoperative patient who’s at home can be monitored by hospitals through virtual consultations or medical equipment technology. So instead of post-operative care taking place at the hospital, it takes place at home.

Consolidation will continue to be a big theme in healthcare: Consolidation has been a dominant narrative in the healthcare sector since at least 2019, particularly last year. We’re now seeing this happen among startups, including DilenyTech being acquired by US-based therapy provider Astute Imaging, and B2B healthtech platform Aumet acquiring Egypt’s Platform One.

There’s more to come: Vezeeta is actively looking for other players to join forces with to increase its operational capacity, founder and CEO Amir Barsoum tells us.

There’s now an expectation that traditional companies will acquire new tech by acquiring the startups building them. “I am expecting many consolidations to happen between traditional businesses, digital ones, and fragmented, smaller ones within the healthtech sector,” Vezeeta says. He also added that .

Some see consolidation as not that beneficial to consumers: “The prevalence of new players is an indicator of market health,” Altibbi’s chief growth officer Abdellatif Olama tells us. “Different players are trying to add to the ecosystem through new angles that would make them stand out. I’m pro-competition to get the best service for the users,” he adds. While he does not oppose market consolidation of bigger players buying smaller ones, Olama thinks that consolidation among large providers will benefit players more than patients.

Others see fragmentation as hurting the startup players: This can, in turn, lead to lower customer adoption overall. “In the past 2-3 years, a lot of new startups have been coming up with new healthtech ideas, but their customer adoption seems to be low,” Fikry tells us.

So how can a healthcare company best prepare for what’s to come? First, build your own digital transformation department and train your staff on how to use the new tools. “Healthcare companies, especially established ones, need to get a strong digital transformation department to prepare for what’s to come,” Fikry says, adding that “they are just as important as medical functions today.” But in order to properly leverage this department, staff, including nurses and doctors, need to be trained to use the tools that the department comes up with.

Second, build cross-industry partnerships. “Working together with different partners can produce much better outcomes for patients, and in return, generate a greater positive economic impact,” Barsoum says.

And of course, fostering a climate of innovation: By embracing innovation because it is inevitable, Barsoum says. “The MENA region has been slower than most in adopting change and transformation within the sector, but it is happening, and the sooner businesses get on board, the better it is for our communities,” he tells us. Olama agrees, stating that existing businesses should be aware of the new services that already exist in the market in order to prepare for the future, which can be summarized in the integration between healthcare and technology.

Your top stories on future trends for the week:

  • Digital healthcare platform Vezeeta has become the latest startup to lay off staff as unfavorable global conditions continue to impact businesses.
  • B Healthcare Investments has completed the acquisition of a 51% stake in the Egyptian IVF Center for EGP 126 mn.
  • Meet our founder of the week, Gahez Market’s co-founder and CEO Wael Olama, who shares with us his experiences of launching a startup.
  • US-based startup Electric Hydrogen has raised USD 198 mn in a huge series B round that will help it realize its goal of making green hydrogen more cost effective.

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