How a Bengaluru duo is helping people get better access to emergency services in India

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From connecting people in need to blood donors and ambulances, to creating awareness about first aid – VMedo has come a long way.

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In late 2014, Bengaluru-based Praveen Gowda’s family found themselves in a precarious and helpless situation. His cousin Meena (not her real name) was facing a medical emergency. While her mother managed to get her in an auto rickshaw from their village in Shivamogga to a nearby city, Meena had lost a lot of blood.

At a government hospital there, 28-year-old Praveen witnessed his family’s agony as the doctors said that Meena had a very slim chance of survival. The family took the risk of going to a private hospital, only to find that they did not have an ICU facility. Fortunately, Praveen’s background in bio medical engineering had helped him make some contacts. He was able to figure out another hospital that had the requisite facilities and they took Meena there.

In close to two days that it took Praveen and his family to find blood donors – which ultimately saved Meena’s life – Praveen realised how difficult things become during a medical emergency and how it can make the difference between life and death. The thought took root, and in December 2014, Praveen and his college friend Darshan MK, co-founded a platform that is now helping people across India in not only accessing ambulances more efficiently, but in connecting them to hospitals, blood donors and teaching them first aid.

VMedo (formerly Blood for Sure), was launched in June 2015, and currently has over 40,000 users. Their Facebook page is full of positive testimonials about VMedo having helped them in medical emergencies.

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VMedo works like an aggregator for private hospitals with ambulances as well as private ambulance owners, much like an Uber or Ola would, locating the nearest ambulance registered on their platform and connecting you with it. The app also has helpful tips for disease prevention and to maintain health on a daily basis.  

It also continues to have a network of blood donors for those in need. One can register after fulfilling certain criteria like weight and other health parameters; and based on their blood donation history of the past three months, they can be eligible for those on the platform looking for donors. With 22,000 registered blood donors and over 800 blood banks now, VMedo has come a long way from its initial goal of being a network for blood donors and those in need.

Then called Blood for Sure, Praveen says that they received a very good response post the 2015 launch. “The app was much more popular than what we anticipated. In addition, we started getting calls about people needing an ambulance, or if they had witnessed an accident. Many of our volunteers also started giving us ideas about what logistical deficiencies there were in accessing medical emergency services,” he tells TNM.

So, in February 2016, the ambulance service was added to the app and the name changed to VMedo. Presently, the platform can access 3,500 ambulances across India, and receives 20 to 25 requests of ambulances per day.

Initially, VMedo only tied up with private hospitals that had ambulances. But after a couple of months, they decided to invest in a few ambulances of their own, and outsourced them to hospitals in order to increase their fleet in Bengaluru. While they have tied up with 60 private hospitals in Bengaluru for providing ambulance services via the app, in other cities, they have associated with private ambulance owners.

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The latest feather in VMedo’s cap is having trained and certified over 900 people in basic first aid, conducting awareness sessions on the same with 3,000 people in Bengaluru.

The inspiration for this, like every other addition to the platform, was feedback they got and real-life experiences. “Once, we received a call from a man who had witnessed an accident,” Praveen narrates. “But he could not give us the exact address to send an ambulance, and when we told him to help the victim by following our instructions, he was wary because he did not know first aid. It made us realise that people want to help but often don’t have the knowledge, and hence the courage to help.”

Late last year, VMedo decided to foray into first-aid training and awareness as well. The first to get trained was VMedo’s 12-member team, by three independent trainers certified by the Indian Red Cross. They started conducting similar sessions with apartment complexes as well.

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Presently, Praveen, who holds a certificate of having been trained by the Indian Red Cross, takes out time and conducts awareness sessions about first-aid in schools as well as apartments, most of them free of cost. Only the training and certification sessions are chargeable because for those, the Indian Red Cross trainers are called. 

VMedo presently earns major revenue from their ambulance service, levying a service charge for the platform like a cab aggregator would, as well as by providing technology to hospitals for a monthly or annual fee. For Praveen, the larger goal remains clear. “I want to ensure that people are able to better access services during a medical emergency. But I ultimately hope that I can help them be better prepared for such situations,” he asserts. 

Article Credit: the news minute

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