South African e-health startup Vula Mobile more than doubled its user base in 2017 as it expanded its offering, while significantly increasing the number of patients it served.
Launched in July 2014, Vula Mobile initially allowed health workers 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.
Health workers can ask for advice over a dedicated messaging platform, and decide on the best course of care for the patient. Eyeing what it describes as the “huge potential” of the global m-health market, the startup has expanded its offering into other areas of health over the last 18 months.
Vula Mobile saw significant growth in 2017, more than doubling the number of registered health workers to 3,600 from 1,775 one year ago. These users are widely distributed across South Africa.
The startup, which measures its impact in terms of patients helped per quarter, saw an increase of 250 per cent in this regard last year, with 5,888 helped in the last quarter of 2017, up from 2,397 patients over the same period in 2016. It is already on course to assist more than 7,500 patients in the first quarter of 2018.
“Beyond the impact on individual patient care, Vula has been recognised as an experiential training tool. Primary health workers learn case-by-case how to manage conditions with specialist guidance. The University of Pretoria and the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Family Medicine Departments are using Vula to monitor and train their medical and clinical associate students remotely,” the startup said.
Meanwhile, impact research from Stellenbosch Orthopaedics on the impact of Vula found that 33 per cent of Vula referrals were managed by giving the referring doctor advice on how to manage the emergency at the primary health centre. This means that fewer patients needed to be transported to get specialist guided healthcare.
Vula Mobile is now used for orthopaedic referrals at hospitals in Kimberley, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg, East London, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.