African mobile app connects patients to doctors

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A mobile application that helps Kenyans diagnose their ailments and connects them to relevant specialists has been downloaded 43 000 times.

The MedAfrica app, developed by Shimba Mobile for Android and Symbian phones, displays contact details and information of doctors and hospitals nearby to patients, after they have diagnosed their symptoms.

Not only does the app provide easier access to medical advice, it also presents an opportunity to connect Kenyans to genuine healthcare, as unlicensed clinics and doctors are a serious problem in the country.

More than 25 million Kenyans own a mobile phone. However, the ratio of patients to doctors in that country is approximately 6 000 to one.

“The service enhances access to healthcare by leveraging high mobile penetration in Africa,” says Shimba CEO Steve Mutinda.

“It aggregates health services for mobile. This is new to users and we see it having a great benefit. Mobile technology penetration is high compared to other channels.”

All information offered via the application is free thanks to $100 000 worth of funding from European venture capitalists.

Shimba is looking at ways to monetise the mobile app through advertising, in-app sponsorships and listings fees.

“Straight off the bat, you have to think sustainability, and more than that, you have to show value,” says Mutinda.

Technology offers even more opportunities to provide better healthcare for less money.

Smartphone-led remote patient monitoring is set to take off across the world, according to a recent mHealth report, by Juniper Research.

With the processing power of phones increasing, the research estimates that the number of patients being monitored by mobile networks will rise to three million by 2016.

“Remote patient monitoring will step in to reduce the cost burden of unhealthy lifestyles and ageing populations,” says report author Anthony Cox.

Downloads of mobile healthcare apps are predicted to reach 44 million this year, rising to 142 million by 2016.

MedAfrica runs on a number of platforms, and Shimba Mobile hopes to roll out the application across Africa in the near future.

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