M-Shwari customers to get up to Sh10,000 medical loans

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta with Safaricom CEO
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta with Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore and Health secretary James Macharia on her arrival to launch the Sema Doc tele-medicine healthcare at a Nairobi Hotel. PHOTO | COURTESY 

M-Shwari customers can now access small health loans of up to Sh10,000 for emergency medical expenses after the signing of a partnership between Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) and an international mobile-health provider.

Yesterday, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta launched mobile health provider Hello Doctor whose service is dubbed Sema Doc.

It will be subscription-based, costing Sh300 per month. The service will however be offered for free in the first month of access.

The medical loans will be offered at a five per cent fee. In addition, a hospital cash benefit of Sh5,000, underwritten by Canon Assurance, will be paid out to customers who get admitted to hospital for at least one night. 

To get access to doctors through phone calls or text messages, M-Shwari customers will pay Sh60 and Sh20 respectively for unlimited talk time and messages.

The mobile-based access to health services concept is gaining traction in Kenya. Telecommunication firms, insurance companies and banks are partnering and leaning on technology to reach more customers, faster and at a more affordable cost.

Ms Kenyatta said during the launch that embracing innovation and merging health services with mobile phones penetration and financial solutions would lower information and transaction costs to deliver cheaper healthcare.

Serve more people

“I have confidence that we shall see more people empowered to manage their own well-being more effectively, and give doctors a chance to serve more people,” she said.

“This innovative mobile healthcare system will also be applied in areas of maternal and child health in support of the Beyond Zero campaign. This will ultimately lead to improved health of mothers and reduction of poverty among families,” she added.

Subscribers will also receive health tips across 20 categories including heart disease, management, childcare, HIV, diabetes, anxiety, skincare and pregnancy. Health Secretary James Macharia said the launch of the Sema Doc service would help more Kenyans to access basic healthcare and referral services.

Mobile technology can address barriers to health services by ensuring all Kenyans have easier access to basic health services everywhere.    

M-Health is not meant to be a substitute for consulting a doctor but will assist the overburdened and under-resourced medical industry by concentrating on a defined number of medical and healthcare related conditions that do not need face-to-face examination.

CBA runs the M-Shwari platform in partnership with Safaricom. M-Shwari offers customers a platform to save money on their mobile phones.

CBA Group Managing Director Isaac Awuondo said the launch of the service was mainly driven by the need to use innovation to transform its subscribers’ lives.