An Interview with ilara Health Founder, Emilian Popa
ilara Health’s vision is “a world in which early detection and preventative healthcare are accessible to everyone, everywhere.” In order to achieve this in Africa’s hyper fragmented primary care ecosystem, they are creating a new model of care by partnering with existing primary care facilities in Kenya, and soon across Africa. ilara Health began in early 2019 with providing diagnostic and digital solutions to healthcare facilities. More recently they have started to take a holistic view of clinics’ operations by creating a digital platform that can address their primary challenges.
What is your innovation?
ilara Health was founded to bring point of care diagnostic devices to settings where they were not accessible and/or affordable. As we grew, we realized we needed to go further and help rebuild the primary care ecosystem for this urbanizing demographic across the continent by digitizing it through developing a clinic operating system to enable the introduction of future services.
“Our focus to date has been on building a network of clinics across Kenya through the deployment of diagnostic tools. We are evolving into bringing essential services to the clinic to drive its growth and improve the care it is able to deliver, to ultimately brand and consolidate a core set of clinics. To do this, we’ve needed to develop a clinic operating system to enable the introduction of future services. Our system has been built to address pain points in patient and clinic management that make a clinician’s life more difficult than it should be. This same system generates clinic-wide data that enables us to introduce new services to develop the healthcare ecosystem. This puts us in a unique position to expand our footprint at the clinic level.” – Emilian Popa, ilara Health Founder
What progress have you recently made that you are celebrating?
We have been able to place diagnostic devices in over 650 small clinics (out of about 8,500 private primary care facilities in the country), building our overall network. We have also been accelerating the development of our technology platform, with the goal of implementing it in 300 primary care facilities by the end of the year.
How has being part of the Villgro Africa incubation program impacted your growth?
The primary benefit of participating in the incubation program was Villgro’s local knowledge and understanding of the healthcare and startup ecosystem. We were connected with local healthcare experts as well as startups all across the world who we were able to learn from. In order to succeed, we need to understand our market and also gain insight into other markets, like India, that are five or ten years ahead of where Kenya is today.
“ilara has a very strong team that is very execution focused. We could see the inputs we were giving being put into action very quickly. Looking at their impact numbers, the work they’ve done is amazing. They are sitting on a goldmine of data, which can be useful for so many other things, including pharmaceutical and insurance companies. It’s been a very exciting partnership and there have also been other synergies between ilara and other companies in the portfolio.” – Wilfred Njagi, Villgro Africa CEO
What are you hoping to achieve in the next 6 months to one year?
There are three main pillars we are focusing on:
(1) Continuing to build the network. We are currently in 650 primary care clinics and pharmacies and our goal is to get to 1,000. This would mean we would cover around 25-35% of the serviceable addressable market.
(2) Digitisation of the clinics within our networks. The goal is to reach 300 by the end of the year.
(3) Once we have a platform and operational and financial visibility through data from the medical facilities, we plan to grow value-added services and products for primary care facilities, such as personalized micro-insurance, micro financing, and new digital health technologies based on unbiased datasets in order for them to benefit and for ilara to generate more value. We are currently running several pilots focused on lending and insurance services.
“Beyond incubation I see many opportunities for continuous collaboration. If you look at ilara as a network, it has the possibility of plugging in so many other healthcare innovations into it.” – Wilfred Njagi, Villgro Africa CEO