Dr Olatunji: Enabling Access to Healthcare for Nigerians in UK with BHIS

In this interview with Sunday Ehigiator, the Founder and Medical Director of MHF Medical Concierge, Dr Taiwo Olatunji, gives insight into his background, and how Bespoke Healthcare for International Students, BHISa product of MHF, is bridging gaps in accessing quality healthcare services for Nigerian students living in the United Kingdom (UK)

Who is Taiwo Olatunji?

I consider myself a dynamic, multi-faceted and self-motivated individual who is committed to personal and professional growth. I am passionate about providing strategies and solutions to challenging problems whilst taking care of others. 

I take pride in my ability to inspire and motivate others to be their best selves and achieve their full potential. I like to foster an environment where colleagues and friends are encouraged to take on new challenges in a bid to exceed their expectations.

How were your upbringing and educational background?

I was born to working-class Nigerian parents who married in England and raised four children. I am the youngest of four and a twin. I attended Government College, Eric-More, Lagos, sat for my GCE a year early and re-joined my family in London where I completed secondary school, college and university. 

I have a first degree in Biochemistry followed by a second degree in Medicine, then trained as a GP with a specialist interest in Ear, Nose and Throat surgery.

I have been a doctor for over 10 years. I previously worked as a research scientist in Oncology and later worked in the pharmaceutical industry initially with Merck Sharp and Dohme, then later for AstraZeneca.

How was the BHIS idea birthed?

It was a natural evolution following the founding of the first Afro-centric Medical Concierge company in the UK called Millennium Health Focus (MHF). 

MHF is a private healthcare company that looks after all health and related affairs of high net-worth individuals, predominantly Africans anywhere they need healthcare in the world.

BHIS was born following the challenge a client faced in accessing information about the health status of his daughter who was unwell whilst in boarding school. The parents’ residents in Nigeria were unable to speak to a doctor or nurse at will, to brief them about their child’s illness.

Many parents whose children study abroad assume the National Health Service (NHS) will provide care when needed, after all the UK is famed for its high standard of healthcare. 

Unfortunately, whilst this is largely true, many fail to understand that care is not instant and waiting times to access the free NHS service are getting longer.

Take, for example, the waiting time to see a GP in most parts of the country for a routine appointment is two weeks and to see a specialist can take up to 3-4 months, with some specialities taking up to 14 months to see someone.

The same applies to imaging and even blood tests. More notably, parents abroad are not afforded instant contact with a doctor when their child is unwell, whether mildly unwell or seriously ill and needing hospital admission.

The NHS makes no provision for a personal service regardless of means or status. It is near impossible for a concerned parent whether abroad or local to be granted an audience with a GP or hospital consultant without an appointment or pre-planning. 

This often needs the intervention of secretaries or school nurses and at best a wait of days to weeks to arrange such an important discussion.

The truth is if doctors spend their precious time speaking to concerned parents, there will be little time left to do much else, hence secretaries protect this precious time so that patient consultations can occur undisturbed. 

Unfortunately, this is at the expense of anxious parents who reside abroad. MHF stepped in for this client and was able to have a doctor-to-doctor conversation with the GP, and then a hospital consultant on behalf of the family back home. 

The information was then relayed to the parents including answering all their queries and having full knowledge of the case and test results.

Understanding the cultural and personal expectations of parents abroad allows us to be able to fill this unmet need with immense satisfaction from parents. The service caters for students from primary school to postgraduate students.

What are the predominant challenges faced by Nigerian students in the UK and other European countries when trying to access healthcare?

Most international students including Nigerian students are new to the NHS and unaware of challenges in accessing healthcare including waiting times. 

To complicate things further most international students are used to a walk-in private health service back home where a doctor’s appointment can be had either by calling the doctor directly or turning up in the clinic.

Most enjoy a personalised service that does not exist in the UK’s NHS. This often leads to students not reporting symptoms or at best reporting them late. 

In the absence of a health advocate, it is not uncommon that when students seek private healthcare on their own, they end up paying for unnecessary consultations, tests and specialist fees.

Another common challenge is the lack of knowledge about patient rights to their medical notes including test results. Although challenging to access due to the remote location of parents, students can grant parents access (automatically if less than 16yrs old).

BHIS solves all these challenges by creating the first-ever bespoke healthcare service for international students which aims to allay parent anxieties by providing a seamless line of communication between parents and their child’s medical team. It uses technology to give round-the-clock access and share medical notes remotely from anywhere.

Is BHIS only for students in the UK alone?

Yes. We take on students studying in the UK only.

How affordable is the service?

It is comparatively very affordable. The annual subscription is £1500 per annum. There are family and renewal discounts available.

Are there any partnerships between BHIS and other known health insurance services and HMOs for international students, if yes, how does it work?

There are ongoing discussions with the main UK health insurance providers but currently, none is available.

How does one subscribe to the BHIS services?

It is very easy. Just fill in a membership form online (www.mhf.healthcare/students) and then an appointment is made to discuss your application and subsequent steps.

How do you see the BHIS impacting the Nigerian health system?

We complement existing health providers in Nigeria by working with leading private health providers to ensure continuity of care for students when they return home.

We are also embarking on a medical exchange program which seeks to share best medical practices between the UK and Nigeria. We will be sharing more information about this collaborative effort in due course.

What differentiates BHIS from other digital healthcare services currently at Nigerians’ disposal?

We are the only UK private health provider seeking to provide a bespoke health solution for international students studying in the UK. The organisation leverages the fact that it has been providing the highest level of personalised healthcare (Concierge Medicine) to high-net-worth individuals for nearly a decade.

We take pride in being the sole provider of healthcare specifically for students in our purpose-built facility in Central London with onsite pathology testing, imaging, GP and specialist clinics.

As a first-of-its-kind solution for Nigerians, what are your fears and projections in terms of competition and duplications?

We expect duplication and we welcome it. There are too few providers of private healthcare from an African background who own their facilities in the UK and participate in this niche health space.

More providers like MHF are needed to provide the highest level of care to those who call the UK their second home or visit as a medical tourist from Nigeria. Nonetheless, we will always remain the pacesetter.

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