How MDaaS Came to Be (guest post by Oluwasoga Oni of MDaaS)

Medical Devices as a Service, or MDaaS, is one of the the 2015 ALN Ventures companies. This post was written by MDaaS co-founder, Oluwasoga Oni.

MDaaS would have never have come into existence without my dad, a medical doctor with over 30 years of experience serving the people in his community. I grew up in a small town in Ondo State, Nigeria where my dad owns a private practice; that’s where the story of MDaaS begins.

Two years ago, I had become disillusioned with entrepreneurship and work felt repetitive and unexciting. I had just shut down my short film startup because there was no traction, and I felt that I wasn’t changing the world fundamentally the way my former self have envisioned I would. I knew I needed to make a change, so I quit my job to go back to grad school full-time at MIT and visited my dad in Nigeria for the first time in several years. 

While I was there, my dad took me on a tour of his recently built hospital. There, I saw a room filled with broken-down medical equipment (ultrasound machines, ECGs, X-Rays) even though there were patients queued up for care, waiting to access some of these devices. That paradox haunted me and drove me to do more research on medical devices in Nigeria. I found out that rooms like the one in my father’s hospital could be found across the country. I heard stories of people traveling 5 hours to government diagnostic centers for a CT scan; I heard of those waiting for weeks for their turn on the MRI machine and of those that died while waiting to gain access to diagnostics machines. 

Nigeria has one of the highest cancer death rates in the world, primarily because diagnoses often come too late and treatment options are limited. Lack of availability of high-quality medical equipment also plays a huge role in this. For example, the number of CT scanners per person in the US is around 35 scanners per million, but that number in Nigeria is about 0.26 scanners per million. In my native Ondo State there is only 1 CT scanner for 3.8 million people, and even that machine was broken down during my visit. Why are there not more devices available given both the need and demand for diagnostic equipment? Through my research, I found several explanations: devices are relatively expensive; good maintenance and repair services are difficult to find; there is lack of service support from the equipment manufacturers as most equipment is purchased second-hand; and, finally, there is the general perception and acceptance that “this is Nigeria, these devices won’t work here”.

My team and I think all these challenges can be overcome. We believe we can put in place the structures, partnerships, and technical know-how to tackle the inefficiency of Nigeria’s medical device industry. We are building a world-class medical device services company which will provide leasing, maintenance, and repair services. These services allow doctors and hospital administrators to focus on the patients while we at MDaaS takes care of their equipment needs.

I just moved back to Nigeria from Boston to begin executing this vision. When I told my African friends at home and abroad about moving back, most were surprised, and a few thought I was crazy. I was advised in some cases to wait until the time is right, until I have all the right connections. They might be right; maybe I am a little crazy after all. But, then again, maybe I am a drop in the ocean of change that is going to transform Africa, our beloved continent.

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