Five billion people—or 2/3rd of the world population—do not have access to reliable medical emergency services. About 1.25 billion have a 50-50 chance. That means just about 750 million people across the world are in the 'safe' zone.
These statistics were what led social entrepreneur and co-founder of Ziqitza Health Care Limited Shaffi Mather to launch MUrgency—a global emergency network system. It connects people with emergency service providers using a cloud platform and mobile app.
Excerpts from an interview:
What led to the idea of MUrgency? How did your experience founding and running Ziqitza lead to the evolution of Murgency?
Ziqitza Health Care Ltd grew from operating 1 to 1,300-plus ambulances in 10 years. In effect, Ziqitza attends to 6,000-9,000 patients every day. In 10 years, we attended to 40 lakh patients. The reality, however, is that we have not made any impact worth mentioning while looking at the global picture. Leave the global picture, not even in India.
About 5 billion people, or 2/3rd of the world population, do not have a number to call during emergencies. If they have a number, there is no one to answer. If someone answers, they just throw up their hands, saying they do not have the infrastructure to respond.
It is the realisation of these facts which led to the idea of MUrgency—to use the power of mobile networks, and the untapped potential of medical personnel, to make emergency response available anywhere in the world.
What kind of service will MUrgency provide?
MUrgency is setting up a network of doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulances, hospitals, pharmacies and labs. We aim to reach a person who triggers an alert using the MUrgency app within 5 minutes in urban areas and 10 minutes in rural areas.
Of course, time will vary in rural areas, depending on the density of population and terrain, but the idea is to reduce the response time by two-thirds.
We believe this will revolutionise emergency first-response globally. The World Health Organization estimates that more people die every day due to lack of timely care than because of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
We will also provide urgent care to individuals who need the same through the MUrgency network. Plans include delivery of medicines and lab testing, too.
How will you maintain the quality of care provided?
We have a strict validation process. Each responder is vetted by our team of doctors, who have been leaders in emergency first-response training for over 10 years. We also have skill upgradation training for the responders.
What kind of employment agreement will the medical personnel be under?
We have two legal structures, but all contracts are on principal-to-principal basis. That means each responder will be an individual practitioner permitted to practise under the rules that they are subject to.
One legal structure is for medical personnel in their individual capacity and the other for personnel on duty with hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. We have been pleasantly surprised with the support we are receiving from medical institutions.
The institutions designate some of their team members to respond to emergency calls from the locality. The same team members and other staff members can be on the MUrgency network in their individual capacity while they are off duty.
There are many areas in rural India where medical facilities are not available. How would you cater to such areas?
I agree... we have seen it close while running ambulance services in Rajasthan, Bihar and Odisha. What we do have is mobile networks, and they are strengthening. Having worked professionally with Mukesh Ambani during the Reliance Infocom launch in 2000, I expect the Reliance Jiyo 4G launch to make smartphones and data plans within the reach of every Indian.
Our rollout coincides with the impending transformation of the Indian mobile market to a data-driven one. We, however, will have the challenge of getting validated medical personnel. Even the Government of India relies on accredited social health activists (ASHA) workers and health care assistants in such areas. So, we will also rely on such personnel.
This is an ambitious five-year project—we expect all-India reach by 2017 and global coverage by 2020.
What were the results of your pilot projects in Punjab and Israel?
The dummy trials in Punjab have been very positive. We have more than 1,000 emergency responders in Punjab and Chandigarh. The experience in Israel through our partner, United Hatzaleh, has been promising, too. Israel has one of the best emergency ambulance systems, for obvious reasons of constant security threats. Still, the average response time in urban Israel is 8 to 12 minutes. With the 3,300-plus volunteer force under United Hatzaleh, the average response time for 2,45,000 cases was brought down to 2.54 minutes. This is an unparalleled achievement in global emergency response.
This gives us the confidence that we can replicate this in other parts of the world, including India, especially in urban areas. We hope to launch the project in Punjab this September.