Rocket health is revolutionising medical care with online health services in Uganda

Rocket Health is a service of The Medical Concierge Group, a licensed and registered clinic, laboratory and pharmacy that provides telemedicine services to clients in the comfort of their homes or anywhere else they may be. Established in 2019, Rocket Health has transformed the health sector through exceptional e-health services like online consultations, mobile pharmacy, and laboratory sample pick-up and many more services all in the shortest time possible.

It has also worked on a number of projects like the Rhites North Lango Project based in Northern Uganda to increase the access of many Ugandans to health care. We sat down for a brief chat with Sandra Arinaitwe, The Team Lead of Marketing and Communications at Rocket Health to get a full insight into how the company operates.

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Sandra Arinaitwe, Team Lead of Marketing and Communication

Also read: SafeBoda launches Safe Health campaign to improve access to medical care products.

An insight into Rocket Health’s journey as a company

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The founders of Rocket Health, Dr.John Bwanika, Dr. Davis Musinguzi, Fiona Nuwamanya, Hope Fortunate Achiro, and Dr. William Lubega

What is Rocket Health?

Rocket health is a telemedicine service provider that offers remote doctor consultations through channels like phone calls or social media platforms depending on which one is more convenient for the patient. We deliver lab services to one’s location through our lab technicians who go to the patients’ homes to draw samples. We also deliver prescription even over-the-counter medication.

Rocket health also has a clinic where we offer specialist services like paediatric services, obstetrics and gynaecology services, a plastic surgeon and many more.

What was the motivation to start the company?

The motivation was to increase access to health care. As you well know the ratio right now is 1:500,000 in the medical field. Ours was a drive to increase access to health care and also make it more affordable for people to access. Also today you realize a lot of people get caught up and barely have time to make it to the hospital. Through Rocket Health, we created avenues like over the phone, our e-shop and WhatsApp platform where people can easily access the doctors and still be able to meet their medical needs.

There are so many people who are not getting access to quality care and the health care centres are hard to reach, such people can call in with a doctor and get access. We have partnered with different organizations in Northern Uganda, Eastern Uganda, such that people who can’t easily access the health centre are given a toll-free line. There are different health centres that we’ve partnered with in those locations to give them the needed assistance. Once they consult, we give them a reference hospital where they can go to receive the medication that they want.

What opportunities have you taken advantage of?

Rocket health is about a year and a half and one of the opportunities is the growing tech-savvy population who rely on the internet to access basic necessities. That’s the space we wanted to capture and get into. One of the opportunities was the pandemic. Initially, it was hard to get by because many people still believed they need to go to a hospital physically. However, as a result of the covid19 restrictions, many were forced to get access to services from their homes. People had to find alternative ways to get access to doctors and this was through mobile consultations so that’s where our biggest opportunity was.

What challenges have you had to deal with?

Well, we could talk about the internet shutdown which was one of the biggest challenges we faced recently because most of our clients access us through those different channels. All the systems that we use are powered by the internet. The solution we have now is the toll free lines that people can use to access us. And in case of payments we made it easy for them by availing payment means through MTN MoMo.

Other challenges are other areas are still hard to reach since GPS coordinates are not always very accurate which makes it difficult to locate patients. Lots of other challenges are to do with traffic which can cause delays. In traditional hospitals you are more likely going to spend about 6 hours waiting, we want to make sure with us the most you can wait is 2 hours. We are planning to expand and have drug distribution stores so that at least most of the places are optimumly catered for.

Uganda still has a long way to go when it comes to innovation due to a number of challenges. Citing just one incident where Rocket health pitched an idea and the idea was taken on by the other organization as their own. How best did you deal with this?

We all know that imitation is the biggest form of flattery so if we pitch ideas to people and they decide to take them on themselves, we welcome competition in any way at the end of the day, it is what we serve internally that cannot be replicated. Our focus is to ensure that the customer is satisfied with services from Rocket health.

Tell me about the financing journey of Rocket health.

The Medical Concierge group has been winning several grants and its those grants that have been able to let us stand to the level we are now. And we also want to believe that we have a brand that is commercially viable and people are willing to spend money for it and its in this way that we can know we can get the funding for particular activities that we want to do. We receive a lot of grants and a lot of partnerships. At the moment we have a project with USAID, SBCA, the REHEAT project, a project with the Ministry of Health so most of these projects are helping us fund the company. We have also partnered with insurance companies like Jubilee and UAP which gives us a wide pool of customers since we serve these companies’ customers.

How has the pandemic shaped how your company operates in the past 9 months?

Due to the transport restrictions during the lockdown, most of our doctors were unable to commute from their homes. What we did was find ways of transporting each and every person. We also embraced working from home. We also operated in shifts to ensure that there is a particular person at work to handle a particular task. We all worked together despite what department you worked in to meet the customers’ needs.

What lessons have you picked from the pandemic and would you be more prepared?

Before the pandemic we had a very limited pool of delivery agents, lab techs so now we were able to scale that. We were able to increase more services at the clinic and bring in specialists.

Read also: Ministry of Health app essential ahead of covid19 vaccination

Where do you see Rocket Health in 5 years?

5 years from now we believe Rocket Health would have scaled to more cities like Mukono, Masaka, and Mbarara because we have a clientele in those areas. We will have more distribution centres. We also have a mobile app in store where people will make orders and also make consultations via the mobile app. We hope to expand beyond Uganda’s borders to like Nairobi. We are already there as TMCG (The Medical Concierge Group) but we also want to take Rocket Health there.

Do you feel like the government has made enough effort to boost innovation in Uganda?

Government offers opportunities like the recent “Take on the Pearl Innovation challenge” through the Ministry of Tourism and UNDP which was communicated to the public for people to bring on their ideas. The government could however regulate the internet better seeing as most of the companies coming up tend to rely on the internet and also more funding would be appreciated.

Read more: The “Take on the PEARL Innovation Challenge Call” providing $40,000 reward

What are the efforts you have put in place to ensure you have a wider reach to people that can’t access the internet?

We make sure we cater to even those people that cannot access the internet. Very soon we’ll be launching a USSD code so you don’t even have to go to our e-shop to order for a consultation. The USSD code will have a variety of services like pharmacy, lab and clinic services. Patients will be able to navigate through the USSD code menu and order for any of our services. We know that people are adaptive when it comes to using these codes and it is a very easy way to contact us or to ask for a service. We have a toll free line and even SMSes that are at no cost.

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