Co-founder, Wellvis Nigeria
Dr. Wale Adeosun is co-founder, Wellvis Nigeria – a Lagos-based online health information and services platform, one of the few in Africa. The start-up responded quickly to the breakout of COVID-19 by providing an online tool for users to self-assess their risk of infection and receive information on what to do next.
Named Wellvis COVID Triage, the risk-assessment web app is USSD-based and self-administered with a symptom logger for remote monitoring by a clinician. An advice on Covid-19 will be given by the app and also determine if the user needs to call the disease control hotline or not.
The innovation came quite handy and helpful in the environment of severe shortage of healthcare facilities to effectively manage the pandemic. The disease spreads much faster than it takes to heal, leading to congestion of hospitals by both those actually infected and those that are not sure if what they have are symptoms of it.
With a multitude of people thronging to the hospitals in panic, it became difficult to find space for those who have been actually infected with the virus. Wellvis COVID Triage came in to meet the need for a self-assessment tool that prevents the need for rushing to the hospitals at the slightest suspicion of infection.
The COVID-19 Triaging App is free to access anonymously and launches on any web browser either on Andriod, IOS or Windows. It comes with an option of two languages -English and French. Once started, it asks a series of questions ranging from an individual’s COVID-19 exposure to symptoms that are being experienced.
Based on answers provided, the online user is advised whether or not to self-quarantine or seek further assistance via medical hotlines that are provided in five countries so far: Nigeria, Cameroon, the Gambia, Ghana and Kenya. In Nigeria, the screening tool is currently available in five languages – English, French, Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.
Through Wellvis, online users can also procure an appointment with a medical specialist who will then remotely conduct an assessment.
The Wellvis COVID-19 Triage tool was designed using the official case definition by the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC). It uses responses to clinical and epidemiological questions to categorize users into low, medium and high risk. Each risk category is then educated on the appropriate next steps, as described by NCDC.
Adeosun believes that the tool has helped to reduce the number of curious calls to disease control hotlines, thereby allowing persons who have been exposed to the virus to reach the authorities faster, while also providing quick risk assessments, education and decision making on COVID-19 to users.
The inability of communities without enough data and cellphone services to utilise the tool is a concern to him. He said such communities will continue to be left out from accessing essential digital services like COVID-19 Triage tool. He has plans however for outreach programmes to take frequent and regular health programmes closer to such communities.
“Planning is ongoing”, he said “and hopefully, with support from our partners and data/reports from these outreaches, we intend to pressurize the government and telecom companies to begin to look at those communities for infrastructure improvement”.
Aside from the self-assessment tool, Wellis has so far played an active role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been actively involved in sensitizing the public on how to stay safe and minimize infections since the outbreak.
“When it became apparent that it was within our borders, we increased the dissemination of preventive measures from relevant public health agencies via various digital media channels. We decided to layer a tool over our existing platform to help people understand their risks and subsequently get the necessary information”, he said.
Adeosun started Wellvis in 2019 on a mission to create access to verified health information in an environment on ignorance and poverty – that bear the root of most illnesses, especially in this part of the world.
“As a medical doctor, I get calls and text messages from friends, former schoolmates and relatives asking for advice on health situations – what over-the-counter medications to take, what specialist to see and where they can be found. Sometimes they want clarification regarding drug combinations or just to get a second opinion. Most times they just want a health rumour debunked.
“Not everyone has direct access to doctors or other health workers. I can imagine the millions of people who have to deal with wrong, unhelpful and sometimes out rightly harmful health advice”, he said.
His goal is to build Wellvis as a comprehensive telehealth solutions platform, with the intention to become the most useful and helpful health information and service platform for Africans.
The company’s services incorporate online and offline features with a question and answer platform designed to improve access to quality health information. It is also intended to encourage a patient’s active engagement, using a crowd-sourced forum model. The platform takes open or anonymous questions and answers are provided by healthcare workers at no cost.
Wellis also offers a premium service option of a direct one-on-one online consultation with verified health workers, appointment bookings and reminders for physical consultation with specialists and for lab investigations. It also has a portal to access curated health services and products at a discount.
Adeosun has a great commitment going forward in creating access to healthcare information. “We will continue to improve on our platform, developing features and utilities to help people get easier access to health information, advice and health workers on demand”.