goMediCAL web allows to register patients who don't have the app ©Open SI- 2019
"I had a chance to meet goMediCAL representatives during a session that was organized by them and understood how the service would make life easier not only for the patient but also for the doctor. As a patient, when I am sick and I log on to the goMediCAL application, I have two advantages. Firstly, I have the option to search for a doctor, and secondly, I can get an appointment very quickly. Whereas for the doctor, the advantage is that he can keep track of the number of appointments [and] number of patients and can organize his day in [an] optimal manner."
Dr. Olivier Franck Yedomon, a Dermatology-Venereologist who works in a private hospital in Cotonou, speaks about the goMediCAL application launched in Benin by the start-up Open SI, with the support of the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).
Eight months after the launch of the m-health service goMediCAL, user satisfaction is high. New functionalities have been added, with the technical support of Amarante Consulting, to address challenges and scale up the project. Namely, the geolocation of hospitals, the ability to search for pharmacies and ambulances, and/or the possibility for health centres to register patients who do not have the application on their web interface, are also available now.
Like Dr. Yedomon, more and more doctors are becoming goMediCAL users. It is the result of the service’s penetration strategy, which focuses mainly on advocacy and awareness-raising among health workers. Several sessions to introduce the application were held in clinics and in many official forums organized for medical professionals in Benin. Gilles Kounou, the founder of the start-up, explains:
"We realized early on that a good relationship with the doctors would guarantee the sustainability of the project. UNCDF has recruited a health adviser who makes it easier for us to access these important meetings and seminars. Then, the firm Amarante Consulting helped us set up a sales force (of eight recruits) to strengthen the relationship with these doctors, clinics and hospitals."
The positive response of doctors to the service is undoubtedly the main reason for the growth in the number of users. Currently, 15,000 patients regularly use the application, well above the initial target of 10,000 users. In addition, 250 appointments are made every day via the application.
"Since the time we've been using this application at the medical centre, record-keeping is correct now, and patients come on time and [are] catered [to] on time as well," Dr. Yedomon points out.
However, not all expectations of goMediCAL have been met yet. For instance, very few active users have made appointments for a third party. "The application is mainly used by middle class [people] who do not want to waste time," says Mr. Kounou. However, this functionality of goMediCAL is particularly important for access to health care for low-income populations. It is a solution for people, who can afford to do so, to pay the consultation fees for their parents or relatives regardless of where they live. To increase this third-party usage, Open SI will have to invest more in mass communication campaigns to promote the service. Additionally, the start-up has not yet integrated into its offering some key components of the medical system, such as laboratories and insurers. Some ideas are already being studied for inclusion in version 3.0 of the application.
goMediCAL is paving the way for long-awaited second-generation digital products in the rapidly expanding Beninese market. Although usage among vulnerable populations is still limited, the service is transforming the health journey in a positive way. Open SI intends to use the lessons learned through its work with UNCDF to improve its offering, as Mr. Kounou highlights here: "Today, we have better knowledge of the market. With our 260 doctors enrolled on the platform, we will now focus on patients ."