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An American Startup Could Soon be in Charge of Medical Records in Nigeria

https://twitter.com/IsaacFAdewole/status/1019262641401933824 The caption is self-explanatory – Nigeria’s health minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, sat with Alvin Ridgle, an American IT expert who got Nigerian government officials interested in digitizing medical records in the country. Even though the minister

The caption is self-explanatory – Nigeria’s health minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, sat with Alvin Ridgle, an American IT expert who got Nigerian government officials interested in digitizing medical records in the country.

Even though the minister and his team were impressed with Ridgle’s presentation, the capability of Ridgle’s company, ICEMEDX, to handle the health data of the 7th most populous country in the world is a major subject of concern.

According to Adewole, the dream is “to have an efficient records system in all our facilities” and Ridgle’s answer to that is to automate health records in Nigeria’s health facilities.

healthnews.africa took a closer look at the company in question and the man in charge, Alvin Ridgle.

The startup founder had a session with the Nigerian health minister who went on social media to share the moment. Photo by Twitter/IsaacFAdewole

Ridgle heads ICEMEDX which stands for Integrated Charting Environment for the Medical Field and Extended Services according to a trademark filing. The company told the US government it offers computer application software for electronic health records for medical service providers.

According to the company’s records seen by healthnews.africa, Alvin Ridgle is the owner of the company, he filed for trademark, and is also the company’s official correspondence.

medical-entrepreneurs.com a Nigeria registered company offers Medical record services

 

Furthermore, the company’s details on the American Seed Fund website which is for small businesses confirmed ICEMEDX Inc is a startup with a maximum of 5 employees led by Ridgle, a software engineer who studied Computer Science at California State University Long Beach, USA.

According to available online records, he has worked with tech companies including Symantec.

While Ridgle has no medical background, healthnews.africa’s investigations revealed he is married to an assistant professor at the Department of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The product

healthnews.africa gathered that the ICEMEDX CEO pitched the company’s product called NetworkNowEHR  to the Nigerian government. The product is a web-based electronic health records platform that lets doctors quickly document patient encounters and securely collaborate with other practitioners.

When you register on the platform, the confirmation message that is sent is from Ridgle’s personal email. This begs the question – is this a one-man show?

“Doctors have the choice of typing or handwriting directly into the system, selecting from customized templates, using the speech to text engine, or dictating directly into the patient’s chart. The transcribed dictations can be automatically uploaded into the patient’s chart without any additional clicks,” ICEMEDX stated.

The way the platform works is that when NetworkNow members: providers, patients (family and caregivers), payers, vendors and billers have the need to access or share health records they would signup/sign-in, and perform basic user operations including: patient demographics, scheduling, insurance, medications, vaccinations, allergies, problem history, lab results, dictations and more.

The exchange member has the option to build his/her network by sharing, messaging and invitation. An invitation gives healthcare collaborators access to your private network space.

The web-based platform appears to be designed with a health facility in mind and not as a tool that will serve as a country’s central database.

It allows for collation of patient’s records and enables sharing. It offers a central network web that can be adapted to include other practitioners in addition to doctors.

While the minister and his team had high hopes for the deal, its cost caught healthnews.africa’s attention. No package has provision for a national healthcare system.

Major concerns

If what healthnews.africa saw on ICEMEDX’s website is what the company and the Nigerian federal health ministry want to introduce to manage patients’ data in Nigeria then several issues need clarification, the first being data hosting.

ICEMEDX is not a Nigerian company. Also, the company’s website and the website for the service were not registered in Nigeria. Furthermore, the data on the platform will not be hosted in Nigeria and the implication of these is data the Nigerian government does not absolute legal control over the health data of its citizens that will be on ICEMEDX’s platform.

healthnews.africa reviewed the service’sUser’s General Terms of Use and Confidential Agreement and there is no clear-cut assurance that patient’s data will be absolutely kept safe from third and fourth parties.

medical-entrepreneurs.com a Nigeria registered company offers Medical record services

 

“We jointly agree that the Confidential Material will be used only for the purposes of considering a relationship between the Company and may be disclosed only to our respective officers, directors, counsel, lenders, or other agents who need to have access to the Confidential Material for the purpose of evaluating a potential relationship, all of whom will be directed to treat the Confidential Material as confidential,” an aspect of the agreement stated.

Further inquiries by healthnews.africa revealed the service has not been mentioned by any local, national or international news platform. As a matter of fact, this piece is the only result a reader would get when he or she searches for the company or service on Google News.

This trend, according to innovators that spoke to healthnews.africa is a major subject of concern.

Is anybody anywhere using the service?

In addition to issues mentioned, there has not been any publicly available record of any hospital announcing it has adopted the solution that the Nigerian government is open-minded about. To have a clearer perspective on the service’s usage, healthnews.africa tracked the platform’s usage metrics on Alexa.com.

As a web-based platform, users must visit the website before they can use the service. This suggests that the platform’s user traffic is an indication of how many people are using the service. But this was not the case as Alexa.com and SimilarWeb.com, two of the world’s leading tools for analyzing website traffic did not have data for ICEMEDX and networknowehr.com.

The platform’s usage is not significant enough to be ranked locally or globally. This is in sharp contrast to Nigeria’s health startups that have much higher usage details.

On social media, the company does not have much online presence. ICEMEDX US’ Facebook pagehas only been liked by 2 people and the most recent post was on August 16, 2014. I

n October 2017, a Facebook page for the company in Nigeria emerged. Nothing was published on the page till Nigeria’s Democracy Day May 29, 2018 when ‘Welcome to ICEMEDX Nigeria’ was posted.

Can it work in Nigeria?

Nigeria’s health practitioners told healthnews.africa that what the Nigerian government through the health ministry is considering may not be the best solution to automate the country’s medical records.

“This is going to be another failed attempt to plug-in a solution that did not put the peculiarities of the Nigerian health sector into consideration during its development. It was not made here, it was not tested here, so it cannot work here if you look at Nigeria as a whole,” a general practitioner told healthnews.africa.

They raised concerns regarding the internet access requirement for the platform, aspects of the service that are not locally relevant and essential aspects of the Nigerian health system that are missing.

‘Local options abound’

With the privacy concerns and doubted capability of the company to handle the healthcare records of a 190 million people-strong nation in question, experts said the move by the health ministry is going to be a slap on the faces of Nigerian developers who are gaining international recognition and are building world-class solutions that are much better than what the government is planning to pay a foreign company for.

medical-entrepreneurs.com a Nigeria registered company offers Medical record services

healthnews.africa showed the service to some Nigerian health innovators and they affirmed that there are much better locally developed innovations for the health system.

“Are you telling me that this is better than LifeBank, Safer Mom, Wella Health and several others that we have in the market? At best, what I’m looking at can be replaced with a well designed Google Forms. Web-based SpreadSheet can do this and more,” a Yaba-based developer told healthnews.africa

Health startup founders added that the health minister’s public fraternization with the founder of ICEMEDX is a true reflection of the mindset of the Nigerian government towards the country’s innovation space.

“Look at the pictures they shared. Look at those that attended the meeting. I am very sure there is no core tech person in the Nigerian government’s delegation. They didn’t know the guy is a startup founder that has not been profiled by any major news outlet.

“I can guess the only reason he got the meeting was because he came from ‘America’. Meanwhile CNN has profiled LifeBank and several other locally developed world class innovations yet the minister has not had time to talk to them or consider to adopt their solutions. This is not how you develop a country. This is colonialism at its finest.”

Mr. Ridgles has not replied to healthnews.africa’s email at the time of filing this report.

 

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