WILLIAM MAPHAM, H’18
Using Mobile Technology to Strengthen Health Systems
“I am passionate about improving healthcare in rural and underserved areas.”
Improving Health with Mobile Technology
THE CHALLENGE. Dr. William Mapham experienced the challenges facing rural health workers during his work at the Vula Emehlo Eye Clinic in rural Swaziland (officially the Kingdom of Eswatini). The primary challenges were a lack of specialist knowledge and unnecessary referrals to tertiary hospitals. Considering the crisis with the country’s AIDS epidemic — as of November 2008 the total reported percentage of those with HIV was listed as 30% — ensuring proper referrals and having access to the appropriate specialists was paramount. Poor cell phone service, with many calls not connecting or connecting to the wrong number, compounded these issues by slowing the referral process.
THE PROCESS. Mapham’s time in New York and Washington designing mobile phone applications for healthcare gave him the idea to create an app that would connect Swaziland health workers to specialists and streamline the referral process. His goal was to strengthen health systems by enlarging the network and giving all health workers access to specialist guidance, providing specialist healthcare at a primary level. Taking a mobile technology approach, Mapham founded and launched Vula, which was initially only for ophthalmology referrals, but quickly expanded when it became clear that the functionality provided by Vula was widely needed. The company has since worked with specialists in academic hospitals to make sure the right clinical information for your speciality is captured in the referral.
THE RESULT. Vula is an example of the powerful results that can be achieved with social entrepreneurship in Africa. The Vula mobile app has helped over 93,000 patients to date and data shows a 31% reduction in unnecessary referrals to tertiary hospitals. The app serves over 6,100 registered health workers on the Professional Network, and over 1,096 health facilities. The online dashboard enables monitoring, evaluation, and clinical oversight of previously unseen data. Human resources are allocated in an evidence based manner and health companies have access to health workers on an app they use at work. The success of Vula means that the company continues to grow — Vula is now being used actively in six provinces in South Africa.
LEARN MORE ABOUT VULA
Founded in 2014, Vula is a mobile app connecting health workers in rural and underserved areas to specialists. In 2016, Vula 2.0 launched with improved interface and additional specialties (currently 14 specialties). The aim of the app is to give health workers – particularly those in remote rural areas – a tool that helps to get patients quick and efficient specialist care. Vula puts primary healthcare workers directly in touch with on-call specialists, making the referral process much quicker than by fax or phone.
ABOUT DR. WILLIAM MAPHAM
Understanding the Value of Social Entrepreneurship in Africa
Dr. William Mapham is an ophthalmologist. He is passionate about improving healthcare in rural and underserved areas. His medical and technical experience ranges from being the Vice-Chair of the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa, to creating multi-media for health behaviour change with Soul City, to a mobile technology fellowship at Columbia University, to public health and policy work with the National AIDS Council, and working as a specialist ophthalmologist in both rural and urban settings in South Africa and Swaziland. This combination helped Mapham understand the health system challenges from different perspectives.
The African Entrepreneurship Award Bootcamp in Morocco opened his eyes to possibilities and gave him a network of inspirational people. Mapham likewise sees the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance as a means to connect with others in different industries and in different places, to listen, share, and to learn.
At Vula Mobile sharing is a vital strategy for growth. The company builds trusting relationships and are open with their technology. They don’t sign non-disclosure agreements unless requested by others since they tend to slow down the conversation and actually reduce trust. Using Vula Mobile, Mapham aims to strengthen health systems by enlarging the network and giving all health workers access to specialist guidance. This will provide specialist healthcare at a primary level. In the near future, Vula will have enough data for machine learning. This will enable virtually instant support for caring health workers to improve the lives of their patients in Africa.
I AM A HARAMBEAN
Dr. William Mapham sees valuable opportunity in connecting with Harambeans: