The New Marketing Trend Propelling Nigerian Digital health Adoption

Health technology in Nigeria has been bedeviled with poor adoption over the years. Early companies in the space started in the EHR space and targeted health providers. Companies such as Saboath Technologies and integrated medics, who had an early start in the EHR business are either now in zombie mode or dead. Other companies such as eclat found relative success when it exited to interswitch in 2019. A number of other smaller EHR companies have also been rolled up into Helium health. Altogether, however, health technology adoption on the provider side continues to be a struggle.

In more recent times, health technology outfits began to emerge that focus directly on consumers shunning the B2B model of their EHR predecessors. New offerings now exist that seek to provide value directly to consumers. The most popular segment being telemedicine with Techcabal’s 2018 report on Health tech revealing over 20 players in the space.

Nigerian health tech startups from Techcabal Nigeria Health Tech survey

Despite this preponderance of telemedicine companies, adoption of consumer health tech is still relatively low. As a result, many of these telemedicine companies since the 2018 Techcabal survey have either shut down or become zombies. The advent of Covid-19 has thrown a lifeline to many telemedicine companies but it’s yet to be seen how that will affect adoption over the long term.

The central challenge for consumer healthtech companies has always been distribution. Recent attempts at solving this problem have led to an emerging trend of more companies leveraging brand ambassadors, popular media and influencers to advance their cause. Tremendoc set off the trend 1 year ago when they unveiled the popular actress Osas Ighodaro as a brand ambassador at a well-attended launch event.

In a similar vein, Whispa health, a sexual health app also employed the popular Instagram comedian Mr Macaroni to promote the adoption of its application.

No company has better leveraged this trend, however, than myPaddi, a sexual and reproductive health platform who have signed on several influencers that include the popular young singer Rema and Ex — Big brother Nigeria housemates Diane Russet and Tacha. The latter has such a die-hard following that ensures she trends on twitter virtually every week.

Speaking to myPaddi Co-founder, Dr Charles Akhimien, he confirms that it’s been a deliberate strategy on their part to use popular influencers in their marketing. According to him, “since using influencers, we’ve seen tremendous user growth and adoption of our service”. MyPaddi provides among other things, a telemedicine service, and has now gone on to sponsor the currently ongoing Big brother Nigeria show, putting it front and center of millions of young Nigerians who consume the show religiously.

It’s yet to be seen how effective this new approach will be in promoting the adoption of health technology by Nigerians. Early indications, however, suggest it holds some promise. Particularly as there are parallels that can be drawn with what is already known about the power of popular media in changing health behavior. This knowledge is derived from a Randomised Controlled Trial on the second season of the popular MTV show, Shuga. The trial demonstrated a significant 58% reduction in rates of female chlamydia infection attributable to exposure to the show. Can influencers, brand ambassadors and popular media have a similar effect on the adoption of health technology? Well, Dr Charles is betting on it and I wouldn’t put any money against him.

I’m building a digital health company in Africa