Started in 2015, VMEDO is striving to build a network of reliable medical emergency responses in India.
23,989 is the number of ambulances that plys in all states and Union territories of India. For a country of 1.2 billion people, it shows how ill-equipped our medical infrastructure is to respond to cases of accidents, fatalities, and medical emergencies.
Moreover, hardly half the cases that are attended by these sparingly available ambulances get appropriate medical care and attention.
Trying to intervene and bridge this gap are two youngsters, Praveen Gowda and Darshan Mohan Kumar, who through VMEDO are bringing together quality first responders, ambulance providers, hospitals, blood donors, and blood banks on a single platform.
Listing lack of infrastructure, awareness and a highly distributed network of emergency service providers as the major loopholes that exist in today’s healthcare system, Praveen says,
The primary aim of any startup working in this sector should be to increase accessibility to the existing infrastructure, develop a process to increase quality of the service and uplift infrastructure to support demand.
Founded in June 2015. VMEDO, (earlier Blood For Sure) through its emergency helpline and mobile app, has served more than 3,000 people, with over 500 critical emergencies included.
Off to a stumbling start
It was a personal tragedy that prompted Praveen to come up with the idea of setting up VMEDO.
My cousin faced a medical emergency three years back in our village near Shimoga, following which we had to face a series of problems throughout her hospitalisation. This caused tremendous mental agony for me and my family and that’s when I decided that no one should go through the same pain.
A biomedical engineer by training, Praveen then teamed up with his college friend Darshan to build “Blood for Sure”.
Initially started as an app that mostly connected various blood donors, the self-funded effort soon expanded to add more helpful features like finding the nearest ambulance, first aid tips. etc. It was renamed as VMEDO in February 2016.
The latest web and app versions of VMEDO has advanced functions like an emergency response button, various health tools like BMI and fat calculator, offline first aid audio assistance, and more.
“Apart from funding, our initial challenges included dealing with ambulance service providers. We had a tough time explaining to them the purpose of our startup. In the beginning, most of them did not pay us for the trips accepted through the platform,” shares the 27-year-old.
How it works
Today, VMEDO has partnered with more than 50 service providers and has access to over 1,000 ambulances across India. “We have also partnered with more than 20 hospitals in Bangalore including Narayana Hrudayalaya, Sakra, and Vikram hospitals to respond to a medical emergency,” shares Praveen adding,they “receive around 50 enquires per day across India, out of which we are able to serve around 30.”
Explaining the working behind the rapidly growing startup, Praveen says:
People in medical emergencies can reach out to our control room from anywhere, at any time, just with a click of a button on the VMEDO web/app or by dialling the helpline number. Our trained triage team will address the emergency and help the victim with the right medical advice/first aid tips over the phone.
“With the help of our advanced control room software application, the triage team is able to also assist the patient/guardian with the nearest first responder, ambulance, and definitive care unit,” he adds.
Since VMEDO aggregates all the available service providers and brings them on one single platform through technology, it’s able to make efficient utilisation of services like access to ambulances, according to Praveen.
He explains, The existing minimal system is widely distributed. There are government ambulances, private ambulances, and hospital-run ambulances, but all of them are not connected.
One of the most useful features of the VMEDO services is how it’s able to understand the situation of the patient before allocating an ambulance service.
People often don’t know what kind of an ambulance to book for a specific condition. One does not need an ambulance with acute cardiac life support (ACLS) system to transport a patient with an orthopedic condition.
Since there are only 20-25 ACLS ambulances plying in a megacity like Bengaluru the startup stresses on reliable information.
Praveen stresses this is why “helpline services insist on gathering primary information like the age, weight, and medical history of a patient before helping them with the nearest ambulance (which are all geo tagged)”.
The VMEDO app also has first aid information programmed for 27 different emergencies and added features to check nearest hospitals and search for a ‘blood friend’ among its list of 8,500 registered blood donors.
We realised how people find it difficult to read quickly during emergencies. And that’s when we improvised on a feature that reads out the text for family members/first responders, says Praveen.
Currently, VMEDO has a team of 10 members who respond to calls from all over India. From struggling to draw salaries for themselves to now generating revenue for every booking that happens through their platform, VMEDO founders Praveen and Darshan have come a long way to ensure their dream startup sustains to benefit many.
The way forward
Though 70 percent of their medical emergency requests are still from Bengaluru, the healthcare startup is growing its base in many Tier 2 cities of Karnataka. VMEDO has also aided deceased transit of many patients and simplified the gruelling procedure.
Often national/international transit of deceased people involves medical transportation at exorbitant charges. We wrote a blogpost that simplified and explained the less promoted way of air cargo transfer that is quicker, cheaper, and more convenient for the bereaved families, explains Praveen.
He recalls a remote medical emergency request they had to once decline from Assam. Praveen shares:
There are still gaping holes in medical emergency responses that need to be fixed to enable last mile connectivity in India.
Growing at an organic rate of five percent, VMEDO also conducts various awareness programmes in colleges, communities etc… acquainting civilians of their responsibilities during an emergency.
Till today, over 2000 people have benefitted from similar camps.
"We have received fantastic response from our customers, to an extent that few of our customers are now working as volunteers for VMEDO and helping us to serve more people", concludes a grateful Praveen, who also aims to onboard more service providers across India to uplift the medical emergency infrastructure in the future.