How USSD and Google Calendar work together to save patients from queuing for health care services

Get Health is an AAT client that provides quality and affordable health care. One of their unique uses of mobile is a USSD channel for patient bookings that integrates into Google Calendar. We share their story by asking their cofounder and CEO Trevor Brewer a few questions.

As a Rhodes Economics and GIBS MBA Graduate, what steered you towards starting a primary health care business aimed at the lower income patient?

Trevor: I have been hugely inspired by the company SPARK Schools. They provide affordable quality education. I then approached my MBA with the goal of using that time to help me set up something to address the issues pertaining to South Africa. The private sector needs to step up and take command of issues affecting the country as the government can’t do it alone. I think I may have been asking my lecturers too many questions about healthcare issues and they suggested I look at conducting my thesis on it. So my thesis focused on building a service quality framework for the delivery of patient centric care to the uninsured in South Africa. This gave me great exposure into the issues affecting the majority of the population. I guess I have always been very privileged in that I have been able to receive private healthcare my whole life. The stories shocked me.

Due to the shortage of healthcare workers in South Africa and the overburden of demand for services, the providers are forced to see hundreds of patients a day, losing their drive of why they got into healthcare in the first place – to help people. As a result they can lose compassion and this gets passed onto the service quality received by the patients. This is unsustainable and something needed to be done. As a result get Health was formed with a focus on patient centric primary healthcare. We want to ensure accessible and 5 star service at 3 star prices. And we achieve this through our delivery model.

You have a novel way of allowing patients to book an appointment. Can you tell us a bit more about it, and why it is important to you that it works on the most basic of mobile phones?

Trevor: One of the major findings that came from my thesis is that patients have to queue all day to see a provider for 10 minutes. This is not ideal for them, the economy or South Africa. Due to inaccessibility patients are forced to either take leave or lose out on income. This creates a massive barrier to people seeking care in a preventative manner, as they will only go see the healthcare provider when they are really sick. By allowing patients to schedule appointments in the easiest / cheapest way possible the barrier to accessing healthcare will diminish. This ensures patients come in when they not desperately sick, bringing down the cost to treat remarkably.

The majority of our target market use basic and feature phones and are used to using USSD (For recharging airtime and sending Please Call Me messages.)

We saw USSD as the best way of covering our entire market and allowing for an additional, cheaper form of booking appointments.

 USSD channel         USSD channel

Is there any other tech you can recommend to start-up businesses in South Africa?

Trevor: We currently use Google Chromebooks, which aren’t in the country yet. They are affordable and reliable and allow us to ensure that we use technology to provide quality solutions at an affordable cost, which is in line with our goal. Secondly, we are using multiple providers from our scheduling platform to our electronic health records system. We tried to find the best solution that encapsulates all our requirements. There were some programs that did it all however they weren’t the best at everything. As a result we have chosen each of our platforms as they the best in their class. We have then built them to all speak to each other. This allows us to build the solution most needed by us.

Do you have a favourite story of a patient that has been assisted by getHealth?

I don’t know if this can be classified as a favourite or a bit scary – but we had a patient who came in the other day who has never had their blood pressure checked. This patient was 45 years old. I would like to think that this is my favourite story now as we have empowered the patient (by educating him on the importance of having checks) and also showing that we are increasing accessibility for the patients, and bringing down the barriers to healthcare.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt on your journey so far?

I think the most valuable lesson is to just go out there and do it! It will never be the perfect time, place or situation but if you just implement what you wanting to start, things will have a funny way of falling into place.

Media enquiries

Alan Haarhoff, AAT – Business Development Manager
[email protected]
031 100 0237