Kenyan mHealth startup, Capsule Ltd., has developed an app, called Flare, which aims to make the country’s siloed and privately run ambulance service more accessible to patients.
In Kenya, even though ambulances are abundant and affordable, there isn’t a functioning emergency response dispatch system.
As a result patients have to resort to calling different private ambulance companies to inquire about availability and price. Once contacted, each ambulance company’s dispatcher then has to call individual drivers to check their location and coordinate pickups.
This lack of a coordination and integration led to two American friends based in Nairobi, Kenya, to establish Capsule and develop an app similar to the car hailing app Uber to improve the ambulance service for both patients and hospitals.
The two founders of Capsule are Caitlin Dolkart, who gained experience in the African health space by previously working as a Malaria Manager in Tanzania and Kenya for the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and Maria Rabinovich, a software development and design specialist who previously worked for Access Afya, a social enterprise in Nairobi. Collectively they have worked in the African health space for almost a decade.
Flare is Capsule’s first product, which aims to be an on-demand mobile solution through which patients can request an ambulance in minutes and enables ambulance owners to connect with hospitals to inform them ahead of time that a patient is en-route.
The app digitally tracks and maps the ambulance vehicles to respond to calls quicker, and by using Google Maps’ real-time traffic information drivers can choose the quickest route from the patient’s location to the hospital.
“One of the biggest successes we’ve had so far is we have gotten buy-in from the seven providers that comprise approximately 80% of the market,” said Dolkart.
While the Flare app will provide transparency to patients about waiting times and prices, ambulance service providers will still be able to maintain their independent company and pricing structure. Once the app is officially launched, Capsule will make money by taking a percentage of each ride booked through the app.
“Once we have a more organised market it will make it more competitive. But many of the ambulance providers are led by former EMTs or health practitioners. They have worked with us and have very much co-designed the app. They are extremely committed to bringing more reliable and faster emergency health transport to people in need,” said Dolkart.
As part of the app’s development, Capsule has compiled a comprehensive list of ambulance providers, which can be used along with the data the app will collect, to improve healthcare across the city and even country.
Capsule was a participant in the Merck Global Accelerator in Nairobi and has received funding from MIT and independent investors and, according to Disrupt Africa, has recently raised an angel round of $100,000 from two American angel investors.
The app is currently being tested with ambulance companies ahead of a full commercial release at the end of 2016 for hospitals and individual patients, with plans for a further expansion to East and West African countries in the coming year.
“We’re specifically targeting places where there’s an ample supply of ambulances, untapped demand, high penetration of smartphones, large private sector healthcare market, and also where there are already on-demand apps in the market like Uber,” concluded Dolkart.