Therapeuo connects rural Kenyans with medical professionals nearby, and across the globe to promote health. Therapeuo alleviates this accessibility problem by tackling bridging the technological gap between professionals with smart devices and those with limited mobile technology.
In rural Kenya, access to a doctor can be scarce and intermittent. The nearest medical facility is often a day's walk away. This poses challenges for those who have dependants, or are suffering from severe symptoms.
We realized from the beginning that we wanted to stay in the Health pillar, and we were lucky enough to meet a medical student who gave us background on how doctor-patient consultations are done. From what we learned, a fairly thorough a session can be as little as 20 minutes and around 60 questions asked by the physician. This gave us the idea that this interaction could easily be facilitated without an in-person meeting; especially when it was geographically difficult for both parties.
What it does
Therapeuo tackles the accessibility problem on two fronts. The former is a technology solution that bridges cross-generation mobile technologies. The latter utilizes the former to expand the pool of human resources.
- Kenyan seeking medical advice or assistance
- Local medical professional capable of direct engagement
- Global medical professional capable of remote consulting
- Jane is a Kenyan woman with 5 children, one of whom has had a high fever for the last two days. She lives 1 day away from the nearest medical facility.
- Jane sends a request for advice and assistance via SMS to Therapeuo
- Dr. Shepherd from Canada (a professional expertise to triage and diagnose patients) is available and is assigned Jane’s case via her smart-phone.
- After some diagnosis (via SMS/smart-phone), Dr. Shepherd decides that Jane’s child may require on-site treatment.
- Dr. Shepherd is then able to collaborate with Dr. Grey from Nairobi on Jane’s case to provide assistance.
Doctor Narrative - Remote
- Dr. Shepherd is a doctor from Canada and she is able to log into the Therapeuo iOS app to see a list of her cases
- She is able to click on any of her cases to review notes or send the patient an SMS asking for more information or gathering more requirements
- After she closes her phone, she received push notifications when her patients reply to her message or if she is assigned a new patient
Doctor Narrative - Local
- Dr. Grey is a doctor who travels to different villages around Kenya on a weekly basis.
- Dr. Grey gets a notification from Dr. Shepherd regarding a patient close by who may need medical attention
- Dr. Grey now has more information about what is needed where, and can make more informed decisions on where to travel
- When she does visit, Dr. Grey can spend less time triaging patients because the information is at his fingertips
SMS Endpoint Any user with access to SMS can access Therapeuo services.
They can talk to doctors across the globe, as well as receive automated messages in response to certain trigger words (i.e. /options lists all)
- Doctors are able to manage multiple cases at the same time.
- Shows conversation history and case notes.
- Additional doctors can be added to a case (especially if on-the-ground assistance needs to be co-ordinated).
- Location based data is shown to help doctors identify what on-the-ground assistance may be available
- Doctors are able to manage their availability, as well as provide more information about themselves (e.g. location, etc) for better patient matching.
- Providing a near real-time experience with international health professional through a primitive technology, such as SMS, is a key part of what we strived to offer with Therapeuo.
- Twilio API provides the transform between the smart-phone user and the SMS device user.
- Ability to parse ‘trigger’ words which automate certain types of messages. An example is the ‘/options’ message. Upon receipt the server sends out a message to the Patient indicating all the trigger words and ‘/location LOCATION’ updates the Patient’s current location which could be used to better help them with their medical needs.
How we built it
The team consisted of 2 backend developers and 3 frontend developers. The entire process took place across 1 evening, followed by a 24 hour period. The first evening composed mainly of trying to understand the problem space, idea generation, team alignment, and preliminary exploration of dependencies & limitations. Backend work was started first as it would be the longest and most depended upon piece. During this time, further discussion took place regarding what the “MVP” might look like. Ideas and component interactions were prioritized in tracker. Henceforth, a dedicated member worked on providing the data communication layer between the server and the native iOS client. Stub methods were created to allow the frontend team members to build around the general structure of the data without having any real communication with the backend. Features began to fall into place and were integrated in on a just-in-time basis.
Challenges we ran into
- Understanding the problem space; seeking to understand how technology could best serve those in the rural regions of Kenya.
- Numerous areas of concern surrounding security of medical data, user acquisition, monetization/sustainability, and existing solutions in a similar space.
- Apple throttling the number of pushes we can receive after sending too many in succession; preventing us from testing for a period of time.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
A fully operational system in place that demonstrates the core functionality that we envisioned during our initial whiteboarding session. As we progressed through the event we slowly realized what that full potential of this product was and that we had something tangible to go forward with.
What we learned
- About challenges faced by Kenyans
- The value of sleep
- We learned about the core values of working within a team environment progressing toward a common goal, which was to solve a real world problem in a foreign, rural area with a synergy of basic and modern phones.
What's next for Therapeuo
- Therapeuo’s technology stack is agnostic to geographic location and professional field. As such, we envision expansion into different countries. We also expect the core technology stack to be abstracted to other professional service.
- Address a number of issues from during development. This includes, privacy, abuse, safety, sustainability, etc. The current work is a proof-of-concept. Much more work is required to provide the richest experience. Some future work may include improved tag triggers, better patient history tracking, epidemiology, more precise geofencing, big data, etc.