In 2019, 31-year-old Angelo Charmant Igitego lost his daughter at Muhima Hospital. The daughter had been hospitalized due to birth asphyxia, a condition where a baby's brain and other organs do not get enough oxygen and nutrients before, during or right after birth.
According to Igitego, during the hospital stay, one of the nurses was constantly sorting and filling out patient files manually and had no time to come and check on his daughter.
Every time the child had convulsions, her health support would move off and Igitego had to readjust and fit it again – a job he hadn't been trained for.
"The memory of that night is still painful to this day," narrates Igitego. "The morning following my daughter's passing, I had another unpleasant check out from the hospital that also took more than five hours because our invoice had a billing mistake and the hospital policies prohibited patients from leaving the hospital without fixing all billing problems."
Igitego spent five hours on a queue with an emotional rollercoaster of having lost a child whom he had to organize a funeral for, his wife who needed his physical presence and the need to share the bad news to his extended family, friends, and employer.
He stayed in the queue, waiting for the cashier to bill more than fifty other patients, manually – cross checking a price list of hundreds of billable items with varying tariffs based on a patient's insurance provider and coverage rate.
"I was number 45 on the queue and the average wait time per patient was about 30 minutes. To make things worse, I had to queue on different lines depending on the step of the process: the reception, the pharmacy, mutuelle de santé window and photocopy shop," said Igitego.
"Other patients in the queue were not enjoying their time as well. Every time I faced an unpleasant experience as a patient in a hospital, I always asked myself what I could do to change the status quo. Usually, challenges are opportunities to create value for our surroundings and ourselves."
Coming up with a solution
According to Igitego, everyone was doing their best to build a stronger healthcare system. The government was providing funds in billions and doctors were working long hours and so he asked himself what would be his role in improving the situation.
He researched and realized that there was a need for a software tailored to the Rwandan healthcare landscape since existing solutions were not doing a good enough job.
"Back then, the paper-based patient management systems had been accepted by the healthcare sector as the only option. Existing solutions were focusing on tracking a few diseases without providing an end-to-end digital solution," he said.
Hospitals, he continued, had staff specialized in paper-files management referred to as data managers and their job was mainly to organize patient paper files and compile clinical reports at the end of every month.
Since he had a background in Information Technology, Igitego decided to create Karisimbi Technology Solutions, a company he explains as born out of frustration following a series of unpleasant experiences as a patient in public hospitals in Rwanda.
Currently, he is the CEO of the company which came up with IvuliroTech, an electronic medical records system that eliminates paper usage in hospitals, streamlining service delivery, and creating positive experiences for both hospital staff and patients.
Igitego explained that IvuliroTech is a digital patient file whose structure is identical to a normal paper file. To use the software, every nurse and doctor must have a computer that they use in registering or retrieving a patient's information.
"All computers are linked using either cables or wireless technology. There is another computer that works as an on-premise local server. When a doctor writes on the patient's digital file, the information is automatically shared across the entire hospital so that patients do not need to walk around with papers," he said.
He revealed that it was designed for general use at health facilities not for specific diseases, adding that it is user-friendly since it takes a beginner a maximum of 40 minutes to learn and understand how to use it.
Igitego and his project scooped $12,500 during Hanga Pitch Fest, the money he said will help him increase staff and equipment to expand services.
Igitego revealed that he strives to help the Rwandan community to access medical services seamlessly by using technology.
"Interlinking hospitals is our priority now so that medical records can be shared across the entire country. That will reduce the cost of care while increasing the quality of health," he said.
The IT engineer also has a vision of making national health reports automated and insightful.
"I dream of a day where the Minister of Health will wake up and click a button on their smartphone and see the health status report of the whole nation without making a single call or writing a single email," he said.
Igitego declared that his company is now serving 20 private healthcare facilities across the country, adding that the system is currently managing more than 25,000 patient visits on a monthly basis.
They have also created jobs for around 8 people and are looking forward to working with public health facilities.
Igitego said that despite all the investment that the government has made in the healthcare sector, public hospitals do not have access to efficient and effective digital solutions that help doctors and nurses in treating patients without hustling with information processing.
This, according to him, results in high costs, both in lost lives and in monetary terms.
He revealed that their biggest challenge is that they haven't yet gotten support from the Ministry of Health where he explains that it has created a monopolistic environment in public hospitals by mandating them to use another software which is imported from abroad and does not really solve problems as it should because it is not user-friendly and still relies on papers alongside its digital processes.
Igitego is aware that healthcare is a sector that must be heavily regulated to protect the lives of people hence he asks the ministry to provide them with accreditation to serve public hospitals which can ease their work.
In the coming year, Igitego said that they plan to build a functionality that will allow patients to give doctors access to their personal medical history.
They also plan to put on the market a pharmacy management system so that prescriptions can be shared automatically to pharmacies from hospitals.
"We are also talking to insurance companies to introduce paperless claim reports," he said.