A lot of us know what it’s like to be in need of urgent medical help and not know which emergency number to call, because our country has no central emergency number. Actually, many people who live in Sub-Saharan Africa know this feeling.
In Nairobi, Kenya, for example, there are 50 different emergency numbers to call and there’s no guarantee that an ambulance will even arrive, despite there being many ambulances in the city.
Ambulances, most of which are run by private companies, take an average of two hours to arrive. In February 2016, a three-month old boy died while waiting for an ambulance for more than five hours.
A startup called Flare has a solution. The company (beta) launched an Uber-style app that calls ambulances to specific locations. The Flare app leverages on existing smartphone technology to compile real time data, basically doing the job of a central emergency service.
Flare connects patients in need to available ambulances and the right hospitals. Caitlin Dolkart and her partner Maria Rabinovich, came up with the idea of Flare last year after five years of working in healthcare and tech in East Africa.
Since December, Flare has cut ambulance response times and saved lives in countries across East Africa. Using Flare, patients can track and communicate with the dispatched team until the ambulance arrives.
Ambulance drivers will be equipped with smartphones and Google maps, with the exact location of pickup and directions that account for traffic. Like Uber, a percentage will be taken off each ride booked on Flare.
While the focus is mostly on health, Flare is expanding to cover all kinds of emergencies and they already started on boarding fire services and fire truck drivers. For now, the platform is connecting users to more than 50 ambulances and up to 10 fire trucks.
Flare plans to expand the fleet and may also add private security and police. The ambulances have their own insurance and companies are vetted for the proper registration, certification, personnel and equipment before they can join the platform.