Nagesh Chukka, Assistant Vice President from Wells Fargo in Hyderabad, was shocked when he realized he had forgotten about the vaccination appointment of his child. On checking with his friends, he was told that this was a prevalent problem, as there was no good way of tracking vaccination schedules. According to WHO, in India alone, every year, 100,000 kids (aged under five) are losing their lives to vaccine preventable diseases. Even though the government, under Universal Immunization Program (UIP) provides free vaccination, the reach and coverage of this program is very low.
Nagesh decided to use technology to help solve this issue by founding vRemind, a social not-for-profit organization, which is committed to reduce child mortality by offering a simple and handy solution to the mobile driven community. “vRemind was started based on the personal pain I dealt with after I missed the vaccine appointment for my child,” says Nagesh. He and his colleague Srinivas Alluri got together to find a solution for an issue that is wide spread amongst the urban and rural population.
vRemind is a mobile-based health app that gives timely vaccination reminders to parents with children up to the age of five years by sending out one reminder seven days before the appointment, and one more, a day before the scheduled vaccination date. To increase the reach of this solution and not limiting it to just smart phones, the reminders are sent out as an SMS.
Nagesh and Srinivas are leveraging the low-cost tools of the digital revolution to provide simplified solutions that make an impact on the healthcare sector by hopefully saving the lives of thousands of kids in India.
Currently vRemind has more than 10,000 plus subscribers (parents/caregivers) and close to 31,000 SMS reminders have been sent out till date. Since its launch, the app has been enhanced to include multiple channels of registration (along-side the already existing SMS program) like partner networks (hospitals and other birth places) and through website registrations. Nagesh claims that parents using this service are very pleased with the service and that most of them are now relying on this to be alerted in vaccination schedules. Currently the organization is tied up with LifeSpring Hospitals, a chain of twelve branches in Hyderabad, providing low-cost maternal care for the urban poor. They are also in discussions with three more low cost maternity/pediatric clinics.
A similar service in India is currently being provided by IAP-Immunizeindia. When parents opt-in to the service by sending a text message to the national shortcode 566778 from any mobile phone in India, they receive text message reminders for the next twelve years with the vaccination schedules for the child.
The founders point out that their major challenge is frequent SIM changes and penetration of mobile phone usage in the rural areas. To handle the diverse population in the country, many among whom are uneducated, there is also a need of a multi-language support, and an IVR. vRemind wants to address the accessibility issue by tying up with other health networks like ASHA (Accredited social health activists) and Anganwadi who currently have a good reach in the rural sectors.
vRemind is currently self-funded and is looking to work with hospitals to provide subscription models and white labeled solutions to generate revenue and sustain the operations, however, SMS reminders would continue to remain free for all the parents registered with the app directly.
Along with establishing partnerships with local communities/NGOs and low cost clinics, vRemind is looking to partner with government organizations and international NGOs like UNICEF and the WHO. The vision of vRemind for the next few years is to be the go-to mHealth providers in prenatal and postnatal care for the mother and child, which would also include their nutritional requirements. With the data they collect from their subscribers, there is also a plan to provide effective insights, and analytics to improve the supply chain management of vaccines. As the solution is scalable, it has potential to expand globally, to all the countries with mobile penetration.