Kenya’s Afya Rekod raises $2m seed funding to digitise health record


In Africa, health records and information are still recorded using pen and paper and locked away in files and storage rooms. In most cases, patients can only access their personal files during hospital visits and don’t have the power to walk away with their files in hand. This is problematic as it blindsides external doctors from accessing patients’ records for medical attention in emergency cases. 

Afya Rekod, a Kenyan healthtech startup solving this problem by creating a platform that digitally collects and stores people’s health records, has closed a $2 million seed funding to scale its product and expand into new African markets. 

The funding was led by a US-based seed-stage venture capital Mac Venture CapitalNext Chymia, an Asian private firm that focuses on blockchain based companies, also participated in the round.

Founded in 2019 by John Kamara, Afya Rekod is a health platform, built on the blockchain technology, on a mission to return full ownership of health records to patients. 

Before founding Afya Rekod, Kamara, a business leader and a serial entrepreneur, had worked and led teams across different continents and industries like gaming, trading, telecommunications, and NGO. He had also worked at Google as a strategy manager and co-founded Adanian Labs, a pan-African venture building studio. But in 2019, tragedy struck– Kamara’s friend died in one of the best hospitals in Lagos, Nigeria.

His friend’s loved ones and family accused the hospital and its doctos of negligence and incompetence. For Kamara, blaming didn’t change terrible situations; however, he wanted to know why his friend—who went to work by himself in the morning—was rushed to the hospital alive and died before 6 p.m. He asked questions and pored over available health and data points.

“Obviously, my friend was diabetic. But that wasn’t enough to kill him. He was rushed to the hospital with a seizure, and the doctors treated exactly what they saw. They were blindsided because they had zero idea of everything that happened before he got there,” Kamara told TechCabal. “They had no idea what his previous doctor was giving him or if he was self-medicating. So everything they did was counterproductive.”

Kamara, after his investigative stint, realised that it was the unavailability of health history or information that killed his friend. If his doctors were aware of his pre-existing conditions, they might have approached treatment differently. He also figured that this phenomenon is a global menace especially in Africa where hospitals still own patients’ health records. 

“You’ll hear that someone died from a small headache or something less threatening. As we researched more, we realised that over 33% of people died on the continent due to lack of access to data,” he said.

There are three important pillars in the healthcare system. One is the infrastructure, which is the hospitals and clinics. The second one is the resources: the medical instruments and health workers like doctors and nurses. The last one is the patients whose data keeps the system running. Kamara believes that out of these pillars, the patient and their data is the only thing Africa has gotten in abundance; the infrastructures are substandard and the human resources are fleeing for greener pastures.

A data-driven approach solution

“So we thought if we can harness this data properly, we might actually be able to help create an efficient digital infrastructure with the limited resources that we have, and save the lives of more people,” he said.

This sequence of events led to building Afya Rekod, a data driven platform that focuses on the patient by giving them so many rights of ownership and access to their health record, and increasing mobility in the health ecosystem. The patient is the only moving piece of the healthcare system and it’s only rational that records should be mobile as well. 

Afya Rekod is a large platform that contains modular tools collectively working to ensure patients’ ownership of their health record. Kamara said the company has four different unique offerings for patients and medical service providers. Afkya Rekod’s Patient Portal gives patients the freedom to add or remove doctors, invite family and friends, and consolidate past and present medical records.

Medical service providers can take advantage of Afya Rekod’s Electronic Health Record system (EHR) designed for hospitals and health centers. EHR systems connect hospital’s to their patient’s portal, after access has been granted, to add a new diagnosis, prognosis, or recommendation. 

There is also Diagnostic Center that allows medical labs to digitally add patient’s results to their portal without messy paper trails. The fourth offering is Disease Management, which helps chronic diseases patients, who require on-demand access  to their records, manage their timelines. 

The company has been in beta in Kenya since May 2020 and just launched into the public last month. It has expanded into Nigeria and is currently putting together a team that will drive its growth in the African biggest economy. Kamara said they are also doing some underground work in South Africa. Afya Rekod wants to play big in these three African markets and the world at large. 

Since launching into beta last year, the company said it has on-boarded about over 40 hospitals and over 150,000 patients. Two weeks ago, it left beta and launched into the public and expects to ramp up more users. 

Afya Rekod has also signed an exclusive partnership with key healthcare organisations like The Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) with over 500 hospitals across Kenya, Healthy Mind Foundation to train psychiatrists in Lagos Nigeria, and Alchemy to onboard private and public hospitals in Southern Africa.

Speaking on the investment, Kamara said: “We are very excited about this investment as it will help us grow in key markets in our journey to become the leading patient mobility focused health platform in the world. Our mission is to empower patients by giving them access to their health data and to connect with the health ecosystem including hospitals, pharmacies, insurance and beyond.”

Though there are many companies offering EHR, there are no known startups doing what Afya Rekod does in the sub-Saharan Africa region. The closest to this is Egyptian Bypa-ss that raised $1m to also build a similar product. But Kamara believes that there are no direct competitors but partners. 

“One of the things we liked most about Afya Rekod was its commitment to patient centered health innovation and how it addresses the gaps of current healthcare issues. The pandemic has pressed the fast-forward button, bringing an urgency into health data accessibility and analytics,” said Marlon Nichols, Founding Managing Partner of MaC Venture Capital. “This is a global problem that can be addressed by innovative private companies like Afya Rekod. We’re thrilled to partner with the team to tackle this challenging problem in healthcare.”