Using digital technologies to improve access to health care in Benin

  • May 07, 2019

  • Cotonou, Benin


The market for digital financial services in Benin has seen strong uptake in the last two years. Financial service providers are increasingly adding second-generation products to their offering in order to meet customer needs, such as access to healthcare. Notably, the start-up goMediCAL recently launched a mobile health product of the same name.

goMediCAL is a mobile app that allows users to access a list of doctors and clinics and to make appointments with more than 200 health professionals for themselves or others. The app also enables users to share their medical records with doctors and to pay remotely for consultations. The service offered by goMediCAL is complemented by a web app for clinics that allows doctors to manage patients’ files and appointments (e.g., scheduling, cancellation, report and reminder), medical-specialty consultations, and mobile-money and bank/credit-card payments.

One year after its launch in the Beninese market, goMediCAL has 60 registered clinics and is used by more than 8,000 customers and about 250 doctors. These early numbers are encouraging and may further improve, considering the potential of the solution and its usefulness for both customers and health professionals. However, the start-up faces a couple of challenges. First, the low rate of smartphone penetration in Benin significantly reduces the number of potential users, especially among vulnerable people. Second, current behaviours related to patients making it to appointments and doctors/clinics conducting digital payments and adopting digital technologies are not conducive to usage of the app. There is a need for behavioural change and financial education. Other challenges encountered in deploying goMediCAL include the management of patients’ health insurance and the lack of integration with pharmacies.

The UN Capital Development Fund, through its new digital strategy focused on innovation, is supporting the start-up to address these challenges and to increase the impact of the goMediCAL offering—the first mobile health solution in Benin. The partnership helps the start-up to decrypt the customer experience, via prototyping, in order to improve functionalities and to define a more adapted customer journey. One such helpful function is remote payments to third parties via mobile money or credit card by relatives, wherever they are worldwide, which will improve the medical care of vulnerable people. Another is an appointment alert system, which will be integrated in order to reinforce one of the main value propositions of the app: better appointment management to reduce queues. goMediCAL is also working on integration with other healthcare stakeholders, such as pharmacies, laboratories and insurers. With the help of a public health specialist, advocacy is underway to facilitate the integration.

The real challenge, however, for this project is management of consumer behavioural change: Is the appointment alert system sufficient to get patients to stick to their appointments? How can doctors be encouraged to use digital technology for their patient management system? How can customers who do not have a smartphone be positioned as indirect users of the service? How can insurers be convinced to integrate with the offer?

These challenges are just some the project hopes to resolve!

by Jamelion Akogbeto, DFS Consultant