How best can a bright future be secured for health? Will our best bet be to build more hospitals? Will it be to train more doctors? Or would we rather have to leave health to seek its own pathway. Meet Cobby Amoah, a man who has a clear vision for the future of health and is working tirelessly to make it happen.
Give us a bit of background about yourself.
I was born in the Brong Ahafo Region but raised in Accra. My mom works in health care, and my father is a reverend minister. I developed an interest in healthcare and technology at an early age, and my interest has always been at the intersection of both fields.
I also went to Presec – Legon before leaving for the United States to study pre-medicine and economics. The rest of my life has been about my company and projects. I’m a pretty boring person outside of work.
How did you come to win the Clinton Foundation grant?
In my junior year of college, I started a project to provide electronic health records systems to rural facilities for them to communicate with urban health care centers. A couple of organizations thought it was an excellent idea (I believe it is too) and decided to fund it. They include the Kathryn Davis Foundation, Harambe-Pfizer, and the Clinton Foundation. They’ve been great partners so far.
How has the project you pitched for the grant developed over time?
We started with only an idea. Today we’re making our product available to hospitals, pharmacies and laboratories across Ghana. Our platform has evolved into a mobile electronic medical records system for both urban and rural facilities. It has made it possible for doctors and nurses to collect health information, request lab tests and prescribe drugs from a single app. It improves the workflow of hospitals and streamlines the care process. Very soon, we will roll out a consumer version of the product that allows patients to access their lab results on their phones and even talk to their doctors remotely. We’re excited about what we will achieve with this project.
Tell us about the companies you’re involved with.
In the United States, I run a company called Obaa. Obaa’s goal is to use technology to make healthcare services accessible to all. Currently, we have a product called Prime, which uses phones and Google Glass technology to improve intra-practice communication and also allow remote primary care doctors to consult with specialists miles away.
In Ghana, I chair the board of a company called Peach Health, which is our mobile electronic medical records system. Our short-term goal with Peach is to make all medical records, lab requests and prescriptions electronic. In the long term, we want to build a system capable of diagnosing diseases and making recommendations with little human assistance. We’re convinced that computer-assisted diagnosis is how high-level health care can be available to under-served communities.
How big and diverse is your team?
In Ghana, Peach has a full-time team of four people. Regarding diversity, each brings on board a unique perspective both from a technical standpoint and regarding their background. They’re all locally trained and are excellent at what they do. A company is only as good as the people who work there, so we make sure we have a culture that attracts the best talent and helps them thrive. In the U.S, we have a more diverse team from different parts of the world.
What have been the challenges in managing this team?
As a first-time CEO, every day is a challenge and a learning experience at the same time. Some of the challenges range from simple things like scheduling calls across different time zones to managing more complex legal, financial and HR problems. The most important aspect has been to set a tone and culture that reflects my goals and aspirations for the business. My approach has been to read a lot and learn from seasoned entrepreneurs to be a better chief executive. I don’t think I’m there yet.
What are some of the achievements of your team?
I have an accomplished group of people onboard so it might be a very long list, but some of them include:
- Kathryn Davis Award
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology Global Startup Workshop Prize
- Associate of the Harambe Entrepreneurs Alliance
- Pfizer – Harambe mHealth Fellowship
- Thiel Foundation Summit pitch winner
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology GFSA
- Dell Associate Award for Service and Leadership
…and the list goes on.
How does Ghana benefit from your vision?
The goal of our operation in Ghana is to make healthcare available to everyone through connected devices. The future we want for Ghana is one where all medical records are electronic, and patients can easily communicate with their doctors from their phones. This technology is available in a lot of countries, and it is time for Ghana to get onboard.
What do you see as the future of health?
In the future, computers will be responsible for diagnosing a lot of diseases and making the appropriate prescription. A combination of precision medicine (an approach to disease prevention and treatment that takes into account differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles) and sophisticated artificial intelligence will make it possible for us to diagnose quickly genetic and chronic diseases and even predict disease outbreaks before they happen.
A bit of it will be like the movie Elysium. Computers can scan for cancer cells and non-invasively destroy them. A sick citizen can be detected in the system and a robotic medical crew dispatched to treat her. In Elysium, this technology was only available to the rich but I think it will be accessible to all – or, at least, I hope it will be. It is an exciting future, and I’m excited to be part of it.
Are there any persons or groups that have contributed to your success who you will like to acknowledge?
At this stage, I am a product of the mentoring and guidance from a good number of people including our board, mentors, and investors. Obviously, my parents as well, for supporting me to step into the unknown and highly unpredictable world of entrepreneurship.
How easy has it been to fit in as a Ghanaian in the USA?
I think coming from another country has been a huge asset. It gives me a different perspective on so many issues, but it also comes with a lot of adjusting. You have to learn how business is done over here as compared to Ghana. So far, it has been a great experience and I think the U.S. is a great place to start a business.
Thank you, Cobby Amoah, for allowing us to learn more about you and Obaa, your company. We wish you the best in all your endeavors!
Interview By: Kwasi ’Sei, threesixtyGh Writer