Entrepreneurs in Africa
Kaakpema Yelpaala and his Access.Mobile are Improving Healthcare in Uganda
“I believe that in African markets you can come up with solutions that solve problems in a pan-Africa or global way.”- Kaapkema Yelpaala
Imagine a world where medical personnel can electronically record basic patient information into cloud-based software, and then schedule and send SMS reminders for medicine, scripts and appointments.
No, it’s not going to happen sometime in far, far away, it’s happening right now, in Uganda!
After completing his Masters in public health at the Yale School of Public Health, Kaapkema Yelpaala joined the Clinton Health Access Initiative in 2004 where he held various positions within East Africa.
During his work on a number of public health projects across the continent, he connected the dots between the influx of mobile phones and the health care challenges he had encountered, and in 2011, he founded Access.Mobile.
When Kaakpema Yelpaala embarked on a national scale mobile data collection initiative with the health facilities to translate their paper-based data collection into a mobile application framework and web-based analytics tool, they discovered the opportunity for what would become a stunning innovation, the ClinicCommunicator.
The ClinicCommunicator is a web application that allows healthcare professionals to communicate with patients via mobile phones in Uganda.
“ClinicCommunicator not only eases difficulties with data management, but perhaps, more importantly, critical patient engagement. This includes patient scheduling, appointment and medication reminders, disease alerts and other patient communication. The solution provides a user-friendly way to save on lost revenue and allows health facilities to reach patients in a cost-effective manner.”
“Typically a front desk administrator might try to call patients to remind them of their appointment. But that administrator also deals with patient intake and all the front desk duties, and it is a lot of work,”
“So there are often times when people don’t receive those phone calls, and if they don’t receive them they are more likely to miss their appointments.” explained Kaapkema in an interview with HowWeMadeItInAfrica.
The system also sends out medication reminders to patients to remind them to take their medication, which is particularly relevant for chronic conditions such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS.
“This improves medical adherence, keeps patients healthy and reduces the risk of drug resistance. It also provides real-time engagement, alerting patients about new health threats – such as Ebola – while also relaying other important health-related information”, said Kaapkema via an interview with AllAfrica. “This provides patients with essential information in a cost-effective, accessible and quick way, proactively influencing health promoting behaviours.”
And the application transcends income borders too as the company is developing additional software capabilities for clients, such as SMS-based vouchers to improve engagement with low-income patients.
In 2014 Access.mobile won an innovation prize from Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative. “We were one of five companies to win an African wide innovation award, and that involved some grant money. But even more, it involved all kinds of other support such as building the capacity of the team, software development, business strategy and helping us find new partners.”
The company is now expanding to Kenya in partnership with Dutch group, PharmAccess Foundation.
As an entrepreneur in Africa, Kaapkema says that one of the big challenges in the African context is how to scale from country to country.
His advice for entrepreneurs:
“Entrepreneurs need to build models that are highly localized but designed for growth and adaptation. Most importantly, I think many entrepreneurs working in Africa will benefit from thinking bigger. In my opinion we should not only be thinking how we can innovate in African markets, but also how those innovations can be relevant to people all over the world. “
“We do not need to be pigeonholed to one country or even one region, particularly when thinking about technological innovation. Many problems in African hospitals are actually problems for hospitals all over the world. This is the leap I think entrepreneurs need to make. That the problem they’re solving is potentially a universal problem for everyone. If you can’t see an opportunity being that big, it can be hard to motivate investors and partners to believe you have an innovation big enough to support.” [Dalberg.com]
September 8th, 2015