HealthSMS, a South African non-profit, is using a software platform to connect patients with healthcare advice through their mobile.
Using the service, people seeking medical advice dial a USSD code through any mobile device and are presented with a set of options, including types of advice sought, language and region.
Once the platform has processed the data, the user receives either an automated SMS or a call from an agent. Directions to the nearest healthcare facility are also provided if necessary.
“You have call centres in South Africa with paid call centre agents with knowledge and resources, and we have a population that cannot afford to call,” Gur Geva, founder and CEO of HealthSMS, told HumanIPO.
Geva admits that the platform has been primarily focused on women, but says it is “agnostic” in that it can assist people regardless of location or gender.
“We have particularly stayed away from emergencies because of network issues,” he says.
Founded in June 2011, HealthSMS is now funded by licencing the software to health facilities. It is currently licenced to Marie Stopes clinics, and the organisation is seeking similar arrangements. It has also been used for the Eritrean refugee programme.
“The beauty of it is it is a cloud-based service, as you can plug into the SMS gateway for a country it works quickly,” Geva says.
Inspired by HealthSMS, he had also started a for-profit company, Direct Lead. The firm seeks to generate leads for the financial service and insurance sectors. They have partnered with a database firm and will use the data to target individuals for advertising through phone calls and SMS.
Geva says space has opened up in the sector due to the likely passage of the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) bill, which will change the way companies target customers.
“A lot of the players who have been quite aggressive in the past are now exiting the space,” Geva said. “The group that we have put together are bound by codes of conduct. It creates trust. We can sleep at night that we will take care of you.
“There will be a lot more space to play in. Its a highly scaleable business. The best thing to do is to understand the client and then partner with companies that can construct offers around what he wants.”