Automated telephony healthcare powered via SMS

Understanding the mobile landscape, and appreciating the low literacy levels, we knew we needed to utilise the power of SMS.  But combined with the connectivity and automation we can now provide from the BRCK and the hospital’s server, we had the right tools in place for constrained health services.

Automated audio prescription advice

Many patients cannot read the instructions nor afford a phone call to the hospital to confirm procedures for their prescriptions. So we wanted to find a way to make prescribing drugs for chronic diseases both manageable for patients and sustainable for Dr Pascal.

We have prototyped a service without requiring UI, that allows a patient to SMS a reference number to the hospital, and within a few moments receive an automated telephone call back to their mobile.  The call is a pre-recorded audio recording from Dr. Pascal with their prescription and advice required.


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We plan to connect an SMS GMS router to the hospital server, so that messages can be automatically received from patients.  We are planning to scale this prototype to provide automated prognosis for a variety of emergency situations, immediate treatment for injury, malaria, malnutrition & pre/post-natal care.

With this service we can scale the outreach of the hospital’s services, build trust and outreach regardless of patient distance, and raise the profile of the hospital.

Motorcycle ambulance services

There are no ambulances in Kavumu.  To get to Dr Pascal, patients can only walk, be carried, or be bounced along on the back of a motorcycle via treacherous tracks.  To provide food for admitted patients, families may be required to walk daily round-trips of 30 – 40km to support dependants.  We wanted to investigate how we could get patients to and from hospital more comfortably.

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After some research we discovered the Eranger service, a motorcycle with sidecar ambulance pioneered in Haiti. But the challenge remained: how can you find a patient that needs assistance if the family cannot afford a phone call and there are no addresses? With no nationally funded health services, a payment model needs to be incorporated to cover the maintenance costs of the vehicles.

With smartphone penetration increasing, GPS will eventually be able to place people easily for an ambulance to find them.  But in the meantime, an innovative solution is required.

Our Ensemble colleagues helped us understand that people could transmit their location easily over SMS, by texting the local chief’s name.  A chief looks after a village, and can therefore become a place marker.  Via Airtel, the mobile micro-payment solution used in the DRC, patients can arrange payment for the service either on route or as part of an insurance scheme.

We are currently designing the operational blueprint for this service and looking for partners to help us implement it.  If you would like to help us, please get in touch at