Meet Rocket Health, the Ugandan startup disrupting healthcare in Africa

Founded by Dr. Davis Musinguzi, Dr. John Mark Bwanika, Dr. William Lubega, and Ms. Hope Achiro, Rocket Health is an Uganda-based startup that aims to disrupt healthcare in Africa. The startup responds to the problems of remoteness of health facilities, long waiting lines, low doctor-to-patient ratios and the lack of access to credible health information and quality health care services.

Rocket Health offers convenient distance doctor consultations, lab sample pickups, testing, and pharmacy prescription deliveries. Their telemedicine call center proposes remote support to the population on sexual & reproductive health (SRH) issues along with an SRH focused self-servicing online e-Shop for easy access and last mile delivery to commonly stigmatizing SRH services like condoms, emergency contraception, HIV self-testing etc in a private and confidential environment.

In this interview with Hope Achiro, we will explore what makes Rocket Health unique, their challenges and experience at Next Health Accelerator.

Would you please introduce yourself?

My name is Hope Fortunate Achiro, and I’m the director of pharmacy services at Rocket Health.

What is the story behind Rocket Health?

We started Rocket Health to address access issues. The doctor-patient ratio in Uganda now stands at one to twenty-five thousand. That means so many people cannot access quality health care, and it’s not only the doctors. The pharmacists and the pharmacy services or the laboratory services are also really difficult for most people to come by. And if they do, there are long waiting lines in the traditional settings. 

We started Rocket Health to address access issues and provide these services conveniently to our clients. With Rocket Health, people can talk to the doctor anytime, anywhere through our 24/7 contact center. We can also send a lab team to our clients to pick up lab samples, deliver medicines, and link them up with other services that they may require.

Who are your target customers, and what problem are you solving?

Our target population is divided into various segments. We have the urban population, who have access to a mobile phone or internet, and can contact us directly. We also offer our services to the rural population through our network of partners. The rural population needs them more because the doctor-patient ratio is much higher and access issues are even more critical in this market segment.

What are your challenges?

When we started Rocket Health, our main challenge was the adoption of telemedicine. People were so used to getting medical care by walking into a hospital, and they felt like there were no other choices. Nowadays, we have seen increased adoption, and our challenge is how to scale up this model that has done so well in Kampala, in the Greater Kampala, and metropolitan area. We want to scale our model up throughout the country and in Kenya and even Nigeria, where we already had a registered legal presence.

What is your vision for your startup? What does success look like?

Like the name says, our vision is to Rocket Health in Africa. We would like to see Rocket Health expand from the capital of Uganda throughout the nation and then into Kenya and Nigeria, where we already had a registered presence.

Why did you apply for NHA? Why NHA and not another accelerator?

We applied for the Next Health Accelerator program because we wanted to see growth, especially in sexual and reproductive health services offering, and the Next Health Accelerator was specifically focusing on that威而鋼 .

What were your expectations, and how was your experience with the program so far?

We expected to see how we could scale the Rocket Health model. So far, it has been exciting. We’ve learned a lot from industry leaders, from entrepreneurs who are trailblazers ahead of us, and from the other program participants. Our expectation has been met because we’ve been able to interact as a business and even develop scale-up plans.

Have you met someone who inspires you since participating in NHA?

Yes, we met so many people who have inspired us. I’ll single out Senam Beheton. He has been instrumental in helping us look into our business and ask ourselves the questions that needed to be asked. He has also been instrumental in helping us develop our scale-up plans.

What significant progress have you made in your business since joining NHA?

We have been able to meet one of our expectations, which is to develop scale-up plans. We had also been able to define our reproductive health services offering clearly, and reach out to more clients as a result.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I’d like to see the dreams of little ones being respected and make them feel that their dreams are valid, and together, as a global community, we would support them to fulfill these dreams. I believe the world would be a better place if the dreams of the little ones were supported.

Do you have any last comments or advice you would like to share with your fellow entrepreneurs?

To fellow entrepreneurs, at Rocket Health, we have a slogan. We say that we do the hard stuff. This is because we have quickly realized that startups are hard. They are messy, and there is no proper rule book. It’s complex, but if we keep doing the hard stuff, we will be the success stories for tomorrow.

Announcing the inaugural Next Health Accelerator

Intrepid Entrepreneurs is proud to announce the 9 selected startups that represent the inaugural cohort of the Next Health Accelerator.  Recruitment for African, female entrepreneurs disrupting the sexual and reproductive health space yielded 235 applicants from 26 African countries. After a rigorous review process, 9 startups were chosen representing 7 countries: The DRC, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda. 

Next Health Accelerator is a 6-month program to catalyze startups for investor readiness and value chain access.  Our focus on sexual and reproductive health and self-care is founded on the premise that unmet need for sexual education, menstrual hygiene management, family planning, medication abortion, and STI diagnosis and treatment will be most sustainably delivered by local African businesses.  

Notably, 5 startups are addressing the issue of menstrual hygiene management with the intent of transforming period poverty to period pride. Girls Pride provides menstrual hygiene management education and skills training to create reusable pads in The Gambia.  Pad-Up Creations employs over 100 people in Nigeria to produce single-use, chemical-free pads sold in 16 countries. Valorigo manufacturers single-use sanitary eco-friendly pads made from locally grown bamboo in the Congo. The Grace Cup delivers SRH education and reusable menstrual cups in Kenya. Kosmotive provides SRH information and access to SRH self-care products in Rwanda. Each of these startups addresses the lack of basic sexual and reproductive health education to normalize all aspects of puberty, menstruation, and fertility. These startups exist to provide solutions for girls and women to confidently live their lives and achieve their goals every day of the month.   

Since Covid, Telemedicine has taken center stage as a health care solution. Sexual and Reproductive Health access through telemedicine and last-mile delivery are included in the tech innovations at Next Health Accelerator.  Massira delivers SRH information interactively as well as access to SRH services and products through an online community in Ghana.  Rocket Health provides telemedicine and pharmacy services for SRH needs including convenient lab test retrieval and medication delivery in Uganda. Verifie delivers STI self-tests and treatment products via doorstep delivery in Ghana.  

Many of the Next Health Accelerator startups deliver products and services for family planning and beyond. Pharmaserve specializes in delivering high-quality pharmaceuticals in Nigeria through a fully integrated inventory monitoring system. 

Sexual and Reproductive Health issues directly affect 300 million women and girls on the continent and the productivity of the entire continent. Remarkably, this sector has been shrouded in stigma. As a result, populations have greatly suffered from a lack of information about typical processes, solutions, and treatments. Addressing common issues such as period poverty is paramount to increasing girl’s educational attainment and full participation in the workforce. The startups of the Next Health Accelerator will scale to contribute to fulfilling these vast needs and normalizing sexual and reproductive health for women and girls as well as the continent overall.  

Please join us in accelerating Sexual and Reproductive Health in Africa.