November 13, 2020

When the Market Asks, Innovation Answers

Take a look at the number of SMS text messages sent in Kenya between October and December of 2016: 15.8 billion. When you consider the population of Kenya, that number rounds into 35 SMS text messages per person. While some people read that number and see a nascent technology ecosystem, others view that number as an opportunity – a chance to get ahead of the wave.

Kaakpema “KP” Yelpaala, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of International, leads the wave when it comes to this opportunistic lens. International is a for-profit digital health enterprise focused on driving improved access, cost, and quality in emerging healthcare markets. In 2011, Yelpaala saw the potential to advance the budding digital health market in East Africa by leveraging mobile- and cloud-based technologies to better engage patients with their providers. At the time, the marketplace for patient engagement platforms was nonexistent. Patients struggled to connect with providers outside of clinical walls and providers lacked agency to communicate with patients after discharge. Both parties urged for change and more autonomy around healthcare decision-making. listened to these market demands and responded. With boots on the ground, their team took time to understand the needs of patients and providers, giving them a voice and opportunity for input. Through this feedback process, they created amHealth, an affordable, secure, and simple technology to manage practices and increase patient engagement. The team applied a user-centered design process and built amHealth to include group and individual messaging, appointment calendars, patient record management, and practice administration. Focused on essential functionality and pragmatic tools, amHealth gave new meaning to lean data. 

To no surprise, letting the consumers drive the product design has helped to create a dynamic technology that makes clients sigh in relief when they hear the words “user experience”. Customer testimonials are sprinkled around’s website speaking to the technology’s ease, efficiency, and flexible nature; none of which would have been possible if the product was built from the top-down.

The overarching themes of bottom-up innovation and patient engagement have been hot topics in the East African healthcare space in recent times. This is because clinic and hospital networks are rapidly realizing the importance of customer loyalty. As organizations strive for increased revenues, they need to dedicate more time and resources to boost patient returns and referrals. While the provision of high-quality care is fundamental to patient satisfaction, patient-provider communication is the key to unlocking customer loyalty and getting repeat customers and their friends through the door.

As the team continues to build momentum, scaling across Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, the movement around bottom-up innovation will run parallel to their success. To get involved or learn more about’s work, please contact Sara Yelpaala at For more information about other innovators in the Innovations in Healthcare network, click here.


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