Raymond Campbell. Picture: Supplied
Raymond Campbell. Picture: Supplied

Dr Raymond Campbell is on a mission to deliver better and more accurate health care in SA, one health record at a time. He is the founder of Phulukisa Health Solutions, which has created a platform for health-care workers to electronically capture patients’ medical information. This includes weight, body mass index and blood pressure. The platform uses internet of things sensors and stores the information in the cloud.

The company feeds these metrics into an algorithm which will flag abnormalities, help to decide the order of treatment for a patient and escalate serious conditions.

Campbell was a urologist in private practice when he came up with the idea for Phulukisa (which means "to heal" in Zulu). "I was in a nice practice with a very good position for 10 years. I had one day a week when I worked at the state hospitals — it was my pro bono day and it was my nicest day."

He says this exposure to both private and public medicine gave way to a feeling of dissatisfaction with the way things were done in public hospitals, particularly around record-keeping and the type of care given to those who cannot afford private medical attention.

At a time when Uber and Airbnb have disrupted the transport and hospitality industries, the team at Phulukisa is hoping to do the same with SA’s health system.

But is Campbell trying to dilute the role of the doctor?

"Not at all," he says. "If a doctor sees 80 patients a day, how much time and love is he able to give to his clients? It’s not fair to the doctor or the patient.

"What I’m doing is making sure that the people he does get to see are supposed to be there." And by the time the doctor does meet the patient face to face, basic testing has already been handled by other health workers, who use technology to assess and screen for certain conditions.

Phulukisa, which was started in 2014, has a team of just 12 people including developers and technical staff. Like Uber, the company doesn’t see itself as an employer. It has created the platform for nurses and other health-care workers. "I don’t want to employ hundreds or even thousands of people. But I want to empower people to feed the platform. It’s like a highway," says Campbell.

Phulukisa’s biggest partnership is with Microsoft.

Campbell shared the stage with its group CEO, Satya Nadella, last year in Las Vegas to talk about his company’s development.

International exposure through Microsoft has been a game-changer. Campbell is now working with Jamaican authorities on that country’s electronic health record system, and his team recently visited Romania for business. He says electronics firm Philips has asked Phulukisa to develop a product on its behalf.

Closer to home, Phulukisa screened pregnant women in Mamelodi over a period of six months. It was able to reduce their waiting time for decisions from 23 hours to 40 minutes.

Campbell says Phulukisa’s platform can help reduce medical malpractice claims in the public sector. In instances where claims are made based on incorrect care given, the biggest challenge is that records of interactions between patients and health professionals are incomplete.

Using Phulukisa’s system, Campbell says, it is easy to know who did what, who made the decision and when. "We have the record-keeping covered, we’ve got the accountability covered. I know who tested … and we test before things go wrong."

He also foresees interest for medical screening at schools, to identify hearing and vision problems early on.

But growth will not come easily. Campbell bemoans the hurdles he has to clear. "The bureaucracy in the country is difficult to tackle and it actually breaks my heart."

Still, Campbell is in talks with five provinces. In two cases, he is close to reaching an agreement.