Telehealth for cancer patients: How Shamim Nabuuma is using AI to transform healthcare

Shamim Nabuuma Kaliisa an entrepreneur and innovator is one of the youngest that has been inducted into the inaugural class of Bloomberg New Economy Catalysts for her work with artificial intelligence in transforming telehealth for cancer patients under CHIL AI Lab by improving access to healthcare. She has also incorporated AI technology in several other domains under her mother company, CHIL AI Group.

Strongly motivated by her passion for entrepreneurship, she believes in creating opportunities for young people to encourage them. We sat down with her to discuss the impact of her company and what the Bloomberg catalysts induction means to her. The Bloomberg New Economy catalysts is a new global community of public and private sector innovators and entrepreneurs accelerating solutions to today’s greatest problems. 

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What is CHIL AI Lab and how does it work?

CHIL AI Lab is a company that is under the CHIL AI group of companies. It’s a company that uses artificial intelligence to extend cancer screening services, particularly to women. In this, we provide key services like consultation, automated interpretation and referral. In this, we have a chatbot you talk to that checks for some symptoms like any abdominal pain, how many times have you gone for cancer screening. It then advises you accordingly by telling you to go to the Uganda Cancer Institute and also goes ahead to inform you of the days you can go. It helps to save time that you’d have spent at the hospital.

How can people access the chat bot without smartphones?

We actually looked at it in such a way that we don’t only target people that have smartphones. This chatbot has a different part of it whereby someone can call and then someone speaks. Just like with other services it’s something we thought of because we don’t only plan to target people who have smartphones. So this bit is there, they call and you speak to the chatbot and advises them accordingly whether they should go to the hospital and get tested.

How is AL technology embedded within the chat bot?

The chatbot does more referral and interpretation of results. The AI is already embedded in the system. It took a lot of our time because this was being done for health so we had to be careful. The questions the chatbot asks is what the doctor is going to ask. Just like people would go to Google and log in symptoms that they’re feeling, this one is made particularly for cancer patients that are cervical and breast cancer. There are specific questions that cancer patients are usually asked targeting their history that is already embedded within the chatbot so depending on one’s responses, if they are alarming, one will be referred to the Uganda cancer institute.

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How many ventures do you run under CHIL AI Group?

We started as CHIL AI Lab which progressed to CHIL AI Group of companies. We have the health sector which is what we discussed earlier, then we have the agricultural sector, the fintech sector and the drones sector. So there are 4 ventures. All the 4 ventures use the power of artificial intelligence.

For the agricultural sector. We help farmers and market vendors store their food using solar-powered refrigerators. This is something that works when you place foodstuffs like vegetables in this fridge, it can keep them cold up to -3 degrees Celsius while the outside surrounding is 45 degrees Celsius. What happens here is the use of the power of artificial intelligence which can be able to detect the amount of light coming in and then this light coming in onto the solar panel. This light is then converted through the cooling system. This can be used to release the air and then cause cooling which is solar-powered cooling.

The fintech sector. When you look at cancer patients these are people who are going to get drugs very often usually every after 3 months. These drugs however are not free. So how the fintech works is that we allow the patient to save their money on to the AI smart card. What happens is that they are going to save their money onto this card and will only access it until their next visit. This works as a saving mechanism for them. Cancer patients are usually drained because of how expensive medication is, so this helps them save.

The drone technology. This is using the power for drones in times of emergency. If there is a need to transport drugs from let’s say Kabale to Kampala, and it’s an emergency the drones will come in to transport the specimen or drugs. There is need for the drone technology to carry out transportation to health facilities. Using a drone, overcomes the challenges like traffic jam.

What does the Bloomberg induction mean for your company?

The Bloomberg New Economy Catalysts is an honour, it creates an impression for people like donors or investors to trust you. What I hope to achieve is the experience because I’ll be interacting with people who have more experience than I do. We are going to learn from each other. What we need to learn from each other is how to manage the issues in different businesses. Meeting different people through the economy catalyst will increase opportunities since most of these people have established businesses.

Bloomberg economy catalyst business is also about opportunity and we believe such platforms can help in creating more opportunities thus leaving an impact. If I’m getting an opportunity like donor funding, I’ll be able to offer my services to more countries outside Africa. And move to more continents and increase my impact. All the opportunities that are into this like meeting different people is something everyone looks at because you can secure funding. Receiving the recognition is also something that will give my team encouragement. We don’t have to look at it from the monetary side, because its an honor.

What factors have attributed to your success?

The first support I received came from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, it gave birth to all I’m doing. That was in 2018. He (Tony Elumelu) gives $5000 every year. This is something that has been going on since 2015. There are platforms that exist that Ugandans are not aware of that they can use to get support. As entrepreneurs, we need all the support and there are these opportunities like the Tony Elumelu Foundation that offers support to people who are just starting out. I’ve also received support from UNDP.

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