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Technology

Ambulance hailing firm launches app in city

Flare Emergency Response founders Caitlin Dolkart with Maria Rabinovich (R) in an ambulance, at their Nairobi offices on December 27, 2017. . photo | diana ngila | nmg
Flare Emergency Response founders Caitlin Dolkart with Maria Rabinovich (R) in an ambulance, at their Nairobi offices on December 27, 2017. . photo | diana ngila | nmg 

A tech start-up has launched an online ambulance service that operates like a taxi covering Nairobi, a year after angel investors injected Sh55 million to fund its establishment.

Flare founders Caitlin Dolkart and Maria Rabinovich say their web-based service ‘Rescue’ has enrolled 10,000 users mostly drawn from the corporate members during a month-long pilot that has created a pool of 40 ambulances across Nairobi.

They respond to alerts round the clock.

“We wanted a service that saves lives via prompt response and we have tested the service, bringing down emergency rescue service to eight minutes from the traditional two hours,” said Ms Dolkart.

“Swift response means less health complications to a patient who receives first aid from paramedics and evacuation to a hospital of choice,” she said. The 40 ambulances are spread across the city according to locations.

Ms Rabinovich said each participating ambulance team has a mobile gadget for communication, ensuring the teams were accessible around the clock. The service, accessed via any Internet-ready mobile phone, enables the emergency response team to locate a patient.

According to the report received at the 24-hour nerve centre, an ambulance nearest to the patient responds where a paramedic assesses the condition of the patient and alerts the patient's hospital of choice.

The pilot was conducted within Parklands and Westlands in Nairobi, helping the service provider to introduce an annual membership fees of Sh1,500.

The service is being introduced a few years after the American taxi hailing app Uber arrived in Nairobi, a development that has brought forth competition from similar operations and hived off a huge market from the traditional taxi players.

The founders of Flare say they raised an initial Sh5 million from family and private sources and a further Sh5 million from two US angel investors a year ago, which went into setting up an office, IT platform and hiring a staff of 10 that includes clinical officers, web developers and account officers.

Ms Rabinovich, who built electronic medical records and inventory tracking system for a chain of clinics in Kenya four years ago during her international assignment said several private hospitals now relied on privately owned ambulances, easing the need to own an ambulance.

“We wanted hospitals to concentrate on medical services provision and let logistics companies operate ambulance services from a pool. This will save everyone time and money while creating a new revenue stream for hospitals and private companies that own ambulances,” she said.

Ms Dolkart, who studied her MBA at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said the service has created a phone contact database for all participating hospitals where an alert is sent to a patient’s hospital of choice — if they are conscious — ahead of their transportation to the facility.

Ms Dolkart and Ms Rabinovich said the national and county governments could subsidise the service to enable more people to enrol at lower than the rate of Sh1,500 per user, covering the principal member and their immediate family members.

“We are averting a situation where a specialised doctor is called from other locations when an ill patient arrives at a hospital; with our medical alert service, the hospital is fed with information on the patient’s condition when the patient is on the way. Time wasted means loss of life or a patient going into a coma while swift response means cheaper treatment for the patient and the community,” said Ms Rabinovich.

“Competition among the various ambulance companies will mainly hinge on offerings such as presence of paramedics, type of vehicle, service level and price,” she said, adding that a patient’s condition and location will determine the type of ambulance released to the scene.

Some of the services available are the advanced life support ambulance, basic life support and the medical taxi service manned by a paramedic.

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