Gist with a doctor
Mr. John Orajiaka, the Chief Executive Officer of Adnol Multimedia Limited and Dr. Nkiru Orajiaka, a medical doctor championing GIST-A-DOCTOR, in this interview with Jennifer Ehidiamen speaks on how technology is improving digital lifestyle in Nigeria.
Tell us a bit about Adnol Multimedia Limited
John Orajiaka: Basically, we started this company in 2010. But it wasn’t yet operational because I was still working (elsewhere). The company actually became operational in 2011. And one of our biggest customers was MTN. We offer a lot of services, which cut across subscription services like mAgriculture, mhealth. We have been providing these services for MTN for quite sometime now. So based on that we decided to start providing what is called digital life services.We decided to focus on digital health— we see potential in health and see the gap in health as well. So we had to tap Dr Nkiru Orajiaka’s knowledge to build the service.
Before now, we focused on our applications (mobile application on subscription services) that run on MTN. We are based in four African countries now- Cameroon, Liberia, Rwanda and Nigeria.
What has been your major challenge in running this type of business?
John Orajiaka: To be frank with you, we have not had any major challenge. Given my background—running a lot of project for MTN across the region. I have learnt a whole lot, so I try to bring that methodology to the way I run my business. We take risk but we do that based on calculated risk.
From your experience, tell us the opportunity increasing access to technology is bringing to Nigeria
John Orajiaka: I see technology as a good legroom to become a serial entrepreneur. You can do a whole lot with technology. You can use tech to solve many problems in the country. But Technology comes with a little bit of the x areas- something we need to be cautious of. We talk about regulating so that people don’t take it outside the boundary. It is a wonderful tool for economic transformation.We need to embrace it.
How can the government help in improving the sector?
John Orajiaka: To improve the sector, the government needs to put more emphasis on regulating and ensuring whatever policy is being made is enforced.
Dr. Nkiru Orajiaka, tells us about the mhealth product called Gist A Doctor
Dr. Nkiru Orajiaka: GIST-A-DOCTOR is one of the products of Adnol. It is a means that enable you speak with a doctor and not just a chemist. It is just a means of getting medical advice about your health or over the counter prescription. It provides an opportunity to discuss with a medical doctor before you make any medical decision.
How can users be sure that the people responding are professional doctors and not robots?
Dr. Nkiru Orajiaka: To the people, they might not really know. But for someone that has a good knowledge of medicine, the way we break it down, not everyone can do that. I know we have had doctors asking us questions because there are certain terms they use. I tell some of my colleagues; “This must be a doctor trying to verify if I know what I’m talking about.” We break it down based on: this is why you are having this, this is what it may be, these are the tests you need to do. We break it down to know the anatomy or the chemistry behind what is happening.
What are the services you offer on the platform?
Dr. Nkiru Orajiaka: It is a wide range—from First-aid to diagnosis and then referral. There is a way you communicate with people so that they know they really need to see a doctor. They actually come back to ask if we can help them locate a doctor. So we do that to that extent. We don’t just ask them to go and see a doctor and leave them hanging. It is really a back and forth gist. It is like it is a regular everyday conversation.
Is this gist free?
Dr. Nkiru Orajiaka: It is not a free service. The networks charge for every message that comes in. We also have professional doctors we have to pay. There is a subscription part of it, which is a monthly service of N100. Once you subscribe, each conversation is just N20. GIST-A-DOCTOR is currently available on MTN and Etisalat network. We have an NCC approved unified shortcode. But because we started with MTN so Etisalat is on the unified shortcode. (MTN- 35242, Etisalat- 53667)
What are some of the challenges your company has faced providing this services so far?
Dr Nkiru Orajiaka: It is financially tasking. We have to pay the doctors. We do trainings for the doctors. We have to do monitoring to ensure doctors respond based on the professional standard set. People are paranoid. They think it is 419. So we have to respond, explaining the service to them. Trying to clear the ground to make sure people understand it is not just a random person that is responding to them.Gradually, we are having people build confidence.
IS GIST-A-DOCTOR only available on SMS?
Dr. Nkiru Orajiaka: We are building an app for people who are not into SMS. We are also building a voice portal to provide the service in other languages. One thing about gist a doctor, we have a confidential history for every patient. When people come back, doctors are able to read through their history to respond accurately. Even when a different doctor attends to them, they are able to accurately address their issue. Walk into a pharmacy and you’ll hear the pharmacist giving prescriptions without tests. This is really making a difference.
How do you address the issue of confidentiality?
Dr. Nkiru Orajiaka: There are currently about 8,000 subscribers. I don’t know the patients. We don’t ask for their names, except for those who write their names after their SMS.
What advice will you give to Nigerians on the issue of maximizing mhealth services such as GIST-A-DOCTOR?
Dr. Nkiru Orajiaka: Some people have one hundred thousand naira (N100, 000) worth of phone but can’t spare N500 on their health. They can start by spending N100 to even understand their health. There are tiny things we neglect that keep getting bigger.