South African entrepreneurs are working hard to ensure that people living in destitute areas also get quality healthcare. We’re starting to see more entrepreneurs disrupting the health industry with their innovative ideas, attempting to create solutions that benefit the majority of South Africans.
This startup in particular, Vula Mobile, was developed with one goal mind, to improve the health care conditions in rural villages. It empowers health workers by connecting them to specialists. It allows them to capture basic patient information, take photographs, do a basic eye test and capture a brief medical history before sending it directly to a specialist. Workers can ask for advice over a dedicated messaging platform, and decide on the best course of care for the patient.
“Our primary focus is helping patients who don’t have medical aid by empowering health workers. Our drive to have an impact in this sector isn’t made easy because there is cash in the system. We will never charge patients, health workers or specialists. We hope to get external funding to keep making a difference in people’s lives,” explains co-founder, Dr William Mapham.
Last year, the startup won both at the MTN Business App of the Year Awards as well as the African Entrepreneurship Award. Before expanding its services into other areas of health, the mobile app initially focused on one area, Ophthalmology.
Within just a couple of months of operation, the app was already being used to make referrals to five hospitals across the country, including Tygerberg Hospital where Edwards and Mapham’s offices are based. Clinics in Western Cape areas such as Worcester and Bredasdorp now have access to specialists at Tygerberg through Vula mobile.
Vula mobile has also made it possible for rural health-care workers to look up eye conditions, capture patient information and carry out eye tests using a smartphone. The app’s chat function also allows the health-care workers making the referral to send photographs and chat directly with an experienced medical specialist.
“The app was initially only for ophthalmology referrals, but it quickly became clear that the functionality provided by Vula was widely needed. Specialists from several different fields donated their time to work with the Vula team to design functionality for their own specialities. Vula added cardiology, orthopaedics and burns in April 2016.”
The founder also sees potential for growth in the private sector. “There is also potential for savings in the private sector. A contract there would then cross-subsidise our work in the public sector. We are in negotiations with a private sector company where this may work.”