How Rwanda is using artificial intelligence to improve healthcare

(AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK) – In Rwanda, drug stock-outs and medical equipment shortages in health facilities are now a thing of the past, thanks to an innovation that addresses supply constraints.

A venture capital-backed health technology company, Viebeg Technologies is helping to expand access to affordable healthcare in Central and East Africa by helping healthcare institutions real-time sourcing. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to manage supply chain processes (from shipping to warehousing, distribution and inventory management) to ensure that healthcare facilities have the necessary medical equipment in stock.

The Rwanda Innovation Fund, funded in part by the African Development Bank, has invested in Viebeg’s data-driven logistics platform.

Tobias Reiter, co-founder and CEO of Viebeg Technologies, says the AI-driven medical procurement platform connects healthcare providers directly with manufacturers. This eliminates brokers and middlemen in the value chain, resulting in savings of up to 40% for customers.

“We found that many medical institutions do not have the necessary equipment. And we also learned that in Africa, every five minutes, people die from diseases that could have been prevented if we had the necessary medical equipment”noted Mr. Reiter.

Established in 2018, the company works with many healthcare facilities in Rwanda, where 2 million patients have been treated with Viebeg products, according to Alex Musyoka, its co-founder and chief commercial officer. The company is already making inroads elsewhere in East Africa in Kenya, Burundi and Congo in particular, and serves more than 500 establishments. According to Mr. Musyoka, the company plans to expand across the African continent.

Many healthcare facilities in Rwanda are praising Viebeg as they can now source essential products in their specific areas at affordable prices. One example is the Kivu Specialty Clinic, founded by Dr. Amol Kulkarni, one of only three maxillofacial surgeons in Rwanda.

Modern equipment is of the utmost importance for specialists who treat defects and injuries to the mouth, teeth and jaws, treatment that is often prohibitively expensive in Africa.

Dr. Amol said Viebeg helped his clinic acquire an orthopantomogram (panoramic dental x-ray of the upper and lower jaws) machine, which boosted its cutting-edge capabilities. “In four months, the clinic will have fully paid for the new OPG machine,” he said.. We are considered one of the best equipped clinics in Rwanda. Viebeg helped me set up my clinic and I am now confident that Viebeg is my partner in maintaining it”.

Similarly, the Ejo Heza Surgical Center in Kigali needed a new anesthesia machine – after the old one broke down, but did not have the funds to buy a new one. “As Viebeg offers preferential payment terms, Ejo Heza became a Viebeg customer and acquired the new equipment within three weeks. This has allowed our establishment to continue to save lives”says Dr. Dominique Savio Mugenzi, Orthopedic Surgeon and Managing Director of Ejo Heza.

“Thanks to Viebeg’s service, we now source our medical supplies and equipment through the platform, which has significantly reduced procurement costs and medical supply stock-outs”adds Dr. Mugenzi.

Mukando Cesarie, is a patient who has experienced the power of a well-equipped healthcare facility, all the better with Viebeg’s innovation: “I was very sick but, thanks to the gynecological machines we have here, the doctors were finally able to diagnose the problem. Now I’m better after four surgeries. Thank you once again for these services”. She highlights how much attention she was given at Best Care Hospital in Kigali, in July 2022. After undergoing a 10-hour surgery at a local hospital, her condition worsened as the facility had no not have the necessary equipment to make an accurate diagnosis.

Viebeg’s annual income grew from $80,000 to $180,000 six months after funding from the Rwanda Innovation Fund, a growth of 125%. Mr. Musyoka expects to reach $2.5 million by the end of 2022.

In addition to improving its income, the financing has enabled the company to provide training to its employees, to have working capital and to recruit more employees, among other things.

The African Development Bank has invested $30 million in the Rwanda Innovation Fund. The Bank’s support falls within the framework of the NICI III plan (National Information Communication Infrastructure) of the country, which relies on ICT to improve the delivery of services to citizens.

“Digital innovation can transform sectors, but it requires investment,” said Abdu Mukhtar, Director of Industrial and Commercial Development at the Bank. Viebeg is a great example of what can be achieved with the right mix of innovation, entrepreneurship and financial support. This shows that the Rwanda Innovation Fund, launched by the Rwandan government and financed, in part, by the African Development Bank, has played a catalytic role in the development of Viebeg. Local investment in a local company has produced transformative local results. It’s a partnership model that can be applied to other markets”.

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How Rwanda is using artificial intelligence to improve healthcare

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