Thamsanqa Sibiya Speaks on Siza’s Drive to Democratize Access to Healthcare across Africa

Thamsanqa Sibiya Speaks on Siza’s Drive to Democratize Access to Healthcare across Africa

Stakeholders in health, such as the World Bank and WHO, have deemed telemedicine to be excellent for global health. The WHO states that telemedicine can improve efficiency and lessen stress on medical staff by reducing the effects of a shortage of healthcare personnel and excessive hours spent on routine medical cases in clinics. The idea has not yet been widely adopted, despite apparent benefits for resource-poor populations and vulnerable healthcare staff.

Siza, a telehealth platform developed by Thamsanqa Sibiya, is utilizing telemedicine to alter the way healthcare is delivered. The platform limits routine physical interaction that may otherwise increase health hazards while ensuring scheduling flexibility, speed, timeliness, and easy delivery of healthcare services via mobile applications and other technology devices shared by professionals and patients.

Entrepreneurs and physicians who believed that access to healthcare was a fundamental human right rather than a privilege launched Siza in 2019. The founders believed that telehealth is the best option for democratizing access to health. The Ouut reached out to founder, Thamsanqa Sibiya who discussed the platform’s focus, challenges and goals in the health industry across Africa.

Can you explain what the company is about? Please tell us about the startup’s history

Now I’m absolutely happy to do that. In general, we saw an opportunity to provide a service that is solidly needed in South Africa, and also across the developing world, as well as just the world in general. And what I’m basically drove us to where we are, is the need for people to access doctors.

If you live in, rural areas or semi-real or even in townships in South Africa, as a way of example, you generally live far from medical centers and even far from doctors and medical professionals. And people in this country will wake up at three in the morning and travel long distances to get to the medical center. And they will probably queue up at four or five in the morning and wait for the doctor when they actually do not need the doctor or even a nurse because they just want to get their medication.

Therefore, what we are essentially doing is that we want to help break down those barriers by bringing medical care closer to people where there will be various clinics that we will be developing. These various clinics will be staffed by senior nurses, who will act first and foremost as nurses but also as interpreters for those who are unable to speak the doctor’s available language.

Now, in terms of what we do, we offer a platform that allows people to consult doctors and other medical professionals remotely using smart devices. So, for example, if you have a smartphone, you are able to download the app, which is the interface between the doctor and the patient, and the doctor will be on the web app. And then in the background, we’ve got multiple systems that are running and those systems are driven by algorithms.

It assist us in taking a vital signs, while, when you go to a physical doctor, in a physical location, you’re generally get three plus one. It will be your heart rate, your pulse rate, your breathing rate and blood pressure. Right now, we are able to take 21 vital signs, and our accuracy is between 95 and 99%, which is way beyond medical requirement.

I was also curious about your specific audience

Okay. Our target market is those who live in rural areas, have no access to medical doctors, or live far from medical centers. And yet, as I said at the beginning, anyone can use our platform. But the primary target market is basically the masses, who do not have access to medical doctors and live far from medical centers.

At the moment, you, you’re operating sorely in South Africa, right?

Yes. Although you can also basically use the platform from wherever you are at the moment, we’re operating only in South Africa but obviously looking to expand to all the African countries and also other developing countries around the world.

After South Africa, we are going to be going to the neighboring countries that have even a greater need than South Africa. Once that is done, we will obviously be looking at markets in the East African community, Central Africa, and West Africa. And then North Africa. So Swaziland, Lesotho and Mozambique could be the first few, followed by East and Central then West Africa and then North Africa, before we go for other places.

How long has your startup been existing?

Okay, and we started working on the development in 2019. We completed our development. In, in June 2022, we then ran the system for ourselves, basically, to make sure that the system was stable and until November of last year, then we then went live on the 5th of December.

So what was your first customer experience like?

It felt good that we were able to basically provide the service that we had promised to provide, and for the people who have used the system, they are very happy with what we’re able to do. And it has a number of things:

  1. It cuts down the time that they need to take away from their daily chores to go to a doctor or to a clinic in order to get diagnosis.
  2. It saves them the traveling cost that they would otherwise have to spend
  3. It probably helps them physically, or at least protects them from contracting pathogens. If they go to these medical centers when they have immune deficiencies or just weak immune systems
  4. They don’t have to sit in the medical rooms waiting for their appointment for up to an hour, if not more.

So at the moment, what exactly is your team’s strength?

Right now, we have a team of six people, but we also use subcontractors. And that is basically because we have not raised even a penny to invest in the company, we have funded the company out of our own pockets. And the idea is that when we raise money, then we will obviously build a much larger team.

What, what exactly would you say you love the most about your team right now?

It’s a number of things:

  1. The understanding of what we want to achieve
  2. It’s their work ethics
  3. It’s them thinking out of the box
  4. It is their ability to find solution, or solutions, you know, whatever challenges that comes.

Besides the fact that the majority of them understand technology inside and out and have built systems for global entities.

So where exactly do you see the startup in the next five years?

It is very simple. We want to be able to build medical centers, that will assist people throughout the areas where we’ll be operating but more importantly that the startup should be in a position to dominate the market that it operates in. Not only that, we also want to continuously research areas that needs improvement around medical care and in collaboration with other research institutes.

We will consider collaborating with other people who are in the same space. For the entity, the ultimate goal is to offer disease management solutions, which currently do not happen. But with the kind of technology that we now have and the advancement in medicine, we should be able to offer that in no time, and our platform is geared towards that.

Finally, can you just share some challenges you have faced in the industry?

It’s the inability to access skills when you need them. Purely because a lot of people who are in telematics only care about providing voice and video. Our consultation wants to offer more than that by checking for vital signs.

Secondly, it’s people understanding of what we’re doing. And then thirdly, it’s the established medical providers who have been questioning the authenticity of what we’re doing without them understanding exactly what we have done.

I hope we speak again. Thank you

Okay then, thank you