Vula Mobile – An app that makes it easy to refer patients to specialists in South Africa
VULA MOBILE is a mobile Application that helps get patients quick and efficient specialist care. The App was founded by Dr William Mapham, who conceived the idea while working at the Vula Emehlo Eye Clinic in rural Swaziland. He experienced first-hand the difficulties faced by rural health workers when they need specialist advice.
Growth Fulfills Great Needs
William Mapham gives hope to the blind. The South African eye doctor is not a miracle worker, yet he does restore vision and remove barriers to medical services for those most in need. Vula Mobile, launched in 2014, connects on-the-ground health workers to specialists. Vula Mobile is a tool in the hands of health workers and specialists, with patients as the primary beneficiaries.
Vula Mobile won funding and mentoring in the 2015 African Entrepreneurship Award. When asked about the impact on his idea, the upward swoop of William’s hand speaks volumes. In a word, he simply says “Growth!” The company has grown, and the impact on the health care industry – patients and practitioners alike – is immeasurably positive.
The stories of Vula Mobile’s impact can only be described as profoundly life-changing. William recounts the story of a boy in a village who had boiling water thrown in his eyes. The patient, rural and remote, could very well have gone blind without immediate treatment; however, hours would have become days before a specialist could have seen the boy. Enter Vula.
William says that “the health worker was taught by the on-call specialist and shown on Vula how to treat the patient on the spot with a very simple but special technique.” The boy’s vision was saved. William continues, “Just weeks later, another identical situation happened and another doctor treated it correctly. The health care workers had shared the knowledge they had learned on Vula throughout their clinic.”
Since winning in 2015 Vula Mobile has gone from impacting 150 patients per month to 2,000 per month. William expects that it will not be long before that number reaches 5,000 patients per month as Vula quickly scales up and more health care workers use the app.
And, what started as an app strictly for ophthalmology has now grown to include 14 other specialties, including cardiology, orthopedics, and burn specialists. The demand continues to grow and with the help of specialists, William continually develops the platform to increase the potential impact on patients and doctors.
As of November 2017, Vula Mobile has 550 health care specialists and 3000 general practitioners on the platform. Williams says, “The number goes up every day!”
What started as a one man team of William, a life-long tech tinkerer, now includes a full time legal advisor to navigate the sensitive medical industry, as well as a part time business partner, a web specialist, five tech developers, three testers, and a team of three business advisors.
This impact story was initially published by the African Entrepreneurship Award.