Model & Strategy

Vula Mobile’s software connects health workers with patients, getting them to the right health care. More than 32K healthcare workers are using Vula Mobile, and Vula has served over 1.3M patients across South Africa.

The Problem
There is a shortage of medical specialists in South Africa, with 11.4 specialists for every 100K people (for comparison, in the U.S., there are 54.7 specialists per 100K people). Specialists are under huge time pressure, with landlines that never stop ringing and often do not get answered. The result is that patients, doctors, and specialists spend a lot of time and money on trying to communicate, and patients in rural areas disproportionately suffer, facing long distances and expensive transport which stops them from getting the right care.

Healthcare workers in rural, remote, and underserved areas in developing countries are heavily challenged with communication issues. In South Africa, healthcare workers have traditionally made referrals using physical letters, phone calls, emails, and WhatsApp. This approach means that patient health information is being processed across multiple platforms, without guaranteeing information security or integrity. This introduces the risk of records being lost or deleted. Concurrently, regular load shedding in South Africa leads to low internet connectivity, which hinders communication between rural areas and large provincial hospitals.

The Solution
Vula Chat and Referral is an Android, iOS, Huawei, and online application that facilitates referrals between primary health workers and medical specialists to manage patient cases. It is designed per specialty including text, visuals, and results from bespoke clinical tools (e.g., the Vula vision test). Increased access to specialist medical care benefits patients in rural areas, where medical facilities are limited to basic clinics. Compared to competitors, Vula follows a multidisciplinary approach, connecting doctors and healthcare workers across several specialties, going beyond primary care.

Vula improves rural health care, reduces the number of unnecessary referrals, and increases the number of appropriate referrals to scarce specialist services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when the public healthcare system was under strain due to the rising number of COVID positive patients, Vula allowed patients to be treated remotely, further reducing the risk of referring patients to busy hospitals while avoiding their exposure to COVID.

Vula has built a strong technical team over the past year to ensure their product remains relevant for users and compliant with changing regulations. At the same time, Vula has recruited a commercial team to grow the customer base within the public and private health sectors, ensuring that Vula can sustain services and grow their offerings.

Vula Mobile logo
At a Glance
Founded: 2014
Founder & CEO: William Mapham
Location of work: International, Africa
Vula Mobile
Cape Town, South Africa
An app that makes it easy to refer patients to specialists
Doctor in a white coat looks in the baby's ear with a device in his office.
William Mapham
Meet William Mapham

Dr. Will Mapham’s passion is improving healthcare in rural and underserved areas. As a junior doctor volunteering in rural South Africa, he realized that he and the front line health workers had no access to specialist advice that could help them diagnose and treat their patients more effectively. Later he realized that many people who ended up at the hospital could have been managed at the local health center if only the health workers could have been connected to a specialist. So, in 2014 he founded Vula Mobile.

Dr. Mapham is an ophthalmologist who previously served as the Vice-Chair of the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA), spent time in the field of public health using media and mobile technology for behavior change, and has published academic articles on the role of innovation and technology in improving healthcare delivery.


More than 32K healthcare workers are using Vula to improve patient care across South Africa.


  • Healthcare workers have referred and been able to receive advice for over 1.3M patients and will reach 1.6M patients by the end of 2023.