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‘CribMD committed to making a difference in health of Nigerians’

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Lorna Mae Johnson

Honourable Lorna Mae Johnson is the Co-Founder and President CribMD. CribMD is a Telemedical solution and doctor home visit digital outreach online company that combines modern health strategies and technological expertise to create a digital experience to address the challenges of medical health care.

Johnson is also an Olympic qualifying athlete, a graduate of University of Southern California (USC), and a Clinical Professor and lecturer at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, United States. She is a member of President Joe Bidens National Finance Committee and served as Chair on the Biden Presidential Inaugural Committee. She was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on his Advisory Committee on the Arts at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She also served as a member of President Obama’s Advisory Board on Healthcare and on his National Finance Committee. She is the President and CEO of LMJ Global Enterprises and hosts a Virtual Town Hall, “Live with Lorna.” Johnson, alongside Melinda Gates, is an Essayist with the United Nations (UN) Foundation for Women and Girls, and a globally recognised speaker on issues surrounding women, girls, and finance. In this interview with The Guardian, she gives details of what CribMD provides. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes

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What are the features this new digital platform promise that hitherto was not available in Nigeria?
CribMD provides affordable subscription-based telemedicine and doctor house call on-demand to subscribers in Nigeria, where primary health care is in short supply. Using technology, we make it easy to get care from the comfort and safety of your home or wherever you are in any of the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. This can be done in emergencies 24/7, 365 days a year, or on your own schedule for non-emergencies. CribMD aims to be Africa’s gold standard for healthcare.

Nigeria’s current healthcare system is fractured, where families have to wait in long lines all day, and even when seen by a doctor they may end up with non-authentic medications. For our co-founder Ifeanyi Ossai losing his Aunt due to lack of access to a doctor for treatment of a simple allergic reaction is personal and of course, this was the inspiration behind CribMD. This is still happening today to many Nigerian families.

Statistics show that over 100,000 people die each year from medications that did not work and from poor healthcare access. CribMD is committed to making a difference in the health of all Nigerians. We have developed a secure, mobile-friendly healthcare platform and health data management system that facilitates better doctor-patient communication. We provide a suite of health care services that include telemedicine and doctor house calls with verified doctors; free online pharmacy services with prescription and delivery of certified medications; in-platform doctor/patient communication; and mental health services.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a doctor to patient ratio of 1:600. In Nigeria, this is about 1:2600. Because of technology, I believe that we at CribMD can positively affect many more lives.

Most of the wealthy and upper-class people in Nigeria go out of the country for health care. CribMD plans to change that and wow this group as well with our excellence and quality health care and help to facilitate their overseas referral and consultation. You must be able to access immediate medical care if needed, in the country you live in, no matter how rich you are. Immediate quality access could be a difference between life and death.

We promise our patients proactive health management – we win when you win. As a Clinical Professor at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), preventive healthcare is a part of the training I provide to my students, from nurse practitioners to family doctors in training under my supervision. I have experienced firsthand the positive outcome of preventive medical care in my many years in practice as a healthcare professional.

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At CribMD we encourage our subscribers to book a doctor’s home visit immediately to establish a relationship with a physician on our platform—someone you can trust, see you for your annual checkups, and start your health evaluation and education for a healthier lifestyle with preventive measures.

As a comprehensive care organisation, we want to catch your health issues before they become health problems. We’ll treat you in the privacy and comfort of your own home, and ensure your medications are delivered to your door promptly with no extra charge.

You said an enrollee can access a Medical Doctor (MD) right in his or her crib or home, just the same way one orders a pizza online and have it delivered to his or her doorstep. In emergency situations, a video call with a doctor could save a life as he or she could direct on what to do, before arriving at your doorstep. Please throw more light on these statements considering the infrastructure deficit we have in the country?
The beauty of CribMD is that we designed it with the country’s infrastructure limitation in mind. For those who do not have access to a smartphone and good internet coverage, you can still pick up a landline or a flip phone and call our toll free number, the doctor will guide you, your family members, or bystanders through what to do as the situation requires and simultaneously, an ambulance will be dispatched to your location to rush you to the nearest qualified healthcare facility equipped to handle the kind of emergency you’re experiencing. If it’s an issue we determine cannot be reasonably handled in the country, arrangements will be made with partners after the in-country care team has stabilized you and you’ll be flown to India for treatment with partner facilities equipped to handle all kinds of issues.

What other services are available in this digital platform?
We provide a suite of healthcare services facilitated by our online platform, which include telemedicine and doctor home visits with verified doctors; online pharmacy services with prescription and delivery of certified medications; in-platform doctor/patient communication; and mental health services.

Our platform performs myriad high-level functions, which include: 24/7 online visits with board-certified doctors, credentials verified by CribMD; an integrated mobile app to help patients manage benefits, find providers, urgent care, pharmacies, health information, and more; appointment reminders for both patient and physicians; prescription, pharmacy integration, and delivery of certified medications; a patient medical history that helps approved providers coordinate care and share important information; reductions in medication interactions and prescribing errors; and enabling in-platform doctor/patient communication and easy chat/text follow-up.

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How can Nigerians access the services provided by CribMD app?
Our services are subscription-based and can be purchased by individuals for themselves and for their families, or underwritten by employers for their employees. (Our individual health plans can be viewed at https://cribmd.com/individual-plan, and our corporate plans at https://cribmd.com/corporate-plan).

Having a subscription-based health plan means that once a patient signs up for a monthly or annual CribMD subscription for themselves, or for themselves and their family, all covered medical expenses up to the set limit are covered by CribMD. No money changes hands when a customer sees a CribMD doctor.

We are a one-stop-shop for health care needs, so we make it easy to seek care. Subscribers log in to CribMD and can opt for telemedicine or an in-person appointment with a doctor. The patient can search for doctors by a variety of characteristics, including specialty, geographic area, and gender. They can book ambulances and urgent appointments when needed, as well.

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Telemedicine appointments occur on the platform. In-person visits are booked on the platform and confirmed via pre-and post-visit provider/patient workflows. If one of our subscribers needs to use a covered medical service off-platform, they submit their receipt to our support team afterward and we reimburse them for their expense.

For our pharmacy services, we integrate with OpenRx and have partnered with Pioneer Pharma and Gokada to ensure that verified medications can quickly and reliably be delivered to patients all over Nigeria. Our platform ensures a quality patient experience by enabling provider credential verification, safety protocols for in-home visits, patient/provider review workflows, and in-platform doctor/patient communication via text. Interested individuals should visit our website (https://cribmd.com/individual-plan or https://cribmd.com/corporate-plan if they are on a plan provided by The Guardian) to see the full list of benefits.

Which companies or business interests in Nigeria are subscribed to your services?
We currently serve over 30 of the top brands in the market.

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What advantage does this digital platform have over conventional health insurance schemes in the country?
Our platform confers a variety of benefits to our subscribers. These include:
•Patients are not limited to a subset of hospitals or clinics.

•Patients are not limited to seeing only doctors in their own geographic area, so they can more easily find specialists and doctors who fit their gender and specialisation requirements.

•Patients purchase monthly subscriptions and then receive care from our doctors with no cash changing hands;

•We verify all our doctors’ credentials before they can take consultations on our platform;

•Patients can receive care without the hassle of transit, in the comfort of their own home;

•Our support staff is always on call in case of emergency to direct patients to an appropriate caregiver or health facility;

•All medications prescribed by our doctors or sold in CribMD pharmacies are shipped straight from our partners’ factories, ensuring we control the entire supply chain from manufacturing to delivery to the patient’s door.

•We cover a wide variety of perks, including gym memberships

Are your services regulated and by who?
The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) as well as the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) regulate us. All our providers are licensed to practice medicine as family physicians, General Practitioners, pharmacists, or specialists. In terms of data security, CribMD is a secure medical platform that contains individual-level patient records. We are committed to the safety and security of our patients and customers, and as such have developed our platform to be compliant with the most stringent data security and privacy regulations – not just the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), but also international regulations such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HIPAA is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

Your acquisition of Charisland Pharmaceuticals Group has an end goal to ensure fast and efficient one-hour drug deliveries to patients across Nigeria. Considering the prevailing challenges, how do you hope to address logistic concerns and last-mile costs for consumers?
Just like Starbucks in the United States, we’ll soon have CribMD operated pharmacies in most neighborhoods across the country and our partnership with bike delivery companies ensure that you’re not more than an hour away from getting your prescriptions delivered to your front door once prescribed by a CribMD Doctor. As for cost, medication deliveries to your homes are free. Our goal at CribMD is to make life easy for our subscribers and tear down barriers between you and the excellent care you deserve.

Do you have plans to acquire other entities and how soon?
CribMD is committed to excellence. Our ultimate goal is to build product users love and to make getting access to medical care as simple as ordering an Uber.

We aim to be the gold standard for healthcare in Nigeria, providing comprehensive, high-quality health care at a reasonable price to all our subscribers. Our business roadmap and acquisition strategy are driven by the need to overcome inefficiencies we encounter in the medical system – issues that turn into roadblocks to providing the ultimate in high-quality patient care. At our current growth rate, additional acquisitions and partnerships are all but guaranteed as we increase the breadth of services we offer and pursue excellence within our suite of offerings to provide the optimal customer experience. Centralising services under CribMD’s roof system will improve coordination, efficiency, and human outcomes.

In addition, we aim to prove that increasing partnerships and collaborative efforts between public and private entities will alleviate stress from strapped government agencies and benefit individuals suffering from the poor infrastructure and underfunded health system, as it currently exists in Nigeria.

What is the value of the investment being brought into the country via your solutions?
We have acclaimed foreign investors: Sputnik ATX out of Austin, Texas; and Norrsken VC out of Stockholm, Sweden has led our pre-seed and seed rounds. The total value of our direct investment is $2.6M USD.

The funding we’ve raised will be used primarily for bolstering our technology, expanding our offerings and reach, with new hires, and expanded efforts in engineering, marketing, and sales. Although that money is being injected directly into the Nigerian economy, it is hard to put a dollar figure on the net value delivered to Nigerians, including its downstream economic impact. For example, the larger-scale value of CribMD may include the impact of additional Nigerian doctors staying in the country because they can now earn a living wage consulting for CribMD, or the impact of lives saved and additional productive hours worked because people don’t have to wait for hours in traffic and languish for days without proper care or real, full-strength medication. We’re looking at the big picture and trying to impact real change and improved human outcomes via improved access to care, and this is just the beginning.

Do you see poor technology and low broadband penetration as a challenge to telemedicine?
Although these are definitely challenging to providing telemedicine services, CribMD provides alternate services for people with poor access to these technologies. We have 24-hour administrative dispatchers and doctors on call. For those without Internet access, or with spotty network connections, we also provide toll-free line and text services for people to contact if they need care. Calling our central lines enables subscribers to get the care they need, whether that be a call from a doctor or an ambulance to a nearby care facility.

While telemedicine offers an opportunity for virtual interactions and consultations, where is the place of the second opinion on your platform to validate diagnosis?
The CribMD platform provides and encourages a combination of telemedicine services and doctor home visits. While telemedicine alone is a powerful tool, there are situations that require in-person interaction, health provider diagnosis, and treatment. A doctor will come to see you in your home, which is like seeing you in a brick-and-mortar clinic except it is safer, less stressful, and more personal. If a doctor identifies a problem and further testing, follow up or hospitalisation is needed, patients are given proper instructions. Because of our efficient payment system, other facilities like urgent care or hospitals will give our patients priority of service because they know they will be paid on time. Our doctors know that, and will encourage patients to book additional, in-person visits through our ‘urgent appointment’ feature, or go immediately to an urgent care location or hospital if necessary. They will also help direct patients to specialists as needed. Because our services are subscription-based, an additional appointment with our doctors costs the patient nothing. And for outside services, CribMD administrators are always on staff to call hospitals and alert them to an incoming CribMD patient, facilitating transfers, quick treatment, and bill settlement.

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