Is Disruptive Health Care Technology an Absurd Idea?

To many, the concept of ClickMedix, to use mobile phones to help a billion people have access to fast, effective, affordable health care, was at first absurd.
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doctor measuring blood pressure ...
doctor measuring blood pressure ...

Albert Einstein said, "If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." To many, the concept of ClickMedix, to use mobile phones to help a billion people have access to fast, effective, affordable health care, was at first absurd. Today, with published success in a number of pilots, reach in over seven countries and partners that include Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus's Grameen Health, there is an abundance of hope for this idea.

Cartier Women's Initiative Awards? Even my parents thought my vision for affordable health care using mobile phones was absurd. Winning The Cartier Women's Initiative Awards this October as the 2012 Laureate for North America for my work on ClickMedix was a huge validation for me, and many doubters began to think differently. The Cartier Women's Initiative Awards is an international competition that was created in 2006 by Cartier, The Women's Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD Business School to recognize women entrepreneurs who are making a social impact. If you are a woman entrepreneur at the head of a responsible and creative business and looking for expert coaching and support, I would strongly encourage you to apply online before March 8, 2013. The seven-month long competition was an experience of a lifetime! See my journey on ClickMedix blog. How did I win? I started my presentation to the judges with the vision of impacting over a billion people through better health care.

Impact a Billion People? In 2008, I sat in a MIT Media Lab course, Development Ventures, and listened to our instructors, Dr. Sandy Pentland and Joost Bonsen, pose a simple question: Can you create a business that impacts over a billion people? At the time, mobile smartphones such as the Android G1 and iPhone 3G were just beginning to appear with high-resolution cameras, and mobile data connectivity. My team felt that the improved camera quality and the ability to create customized applications for these smartphones would enable health providers in rural areas to capture information about patients' symptoms and then send that data via mobile networks to remote doctors who could then provide diagnosis and treatment advice.

Can Mobile Telemedicine Really Work? We piloted in more than ten countries and saw that remote doctors can effectively provide a diagnosis based on symptoms information transmitted through mobile phones. In one pilot, we worked with the University of Pennsylvania to determine whether we could use mobile camera phones to teach nurse midwives in Botswana to screen for cervical cancer. The results were astounding. Nurse midwives were taught to use camera phones to photograph the cervix after applying a household vinegar solution, which turned pre-cancerous lesions white. They then took photos of the lesions and, from a remote area of Botswana, sent those over the mobile network to a woman's health expert, who informed them whether the lesions were cancerous. They then removed the lesions accordingly. Was this an absurd idea? This procedure saved lives by enabling same-day screening and treatment of cervical cancer.

What Else Can a Mobile Health Platform Do? If we could use our telemedicine platform to enable diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer in Botswana, it became clear that it could do more. So I went on and explored different usages of mobile telemedicine and found it effective in diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, maternal and pediatric ailments, as well as senior and chronic diseases.

Can This Be Deployed Commercially? After years of testing across the globe and publications showing the effectiveness of our approach, I launched ClickMedix in May of 2011, making available a commercial-scale, bank-level secure, HIPAA-compliant mobile health platform. Our clients can use the platform to rapidly deploy solutions for health-risk detection, telemedicine, continual follow-up and adherence monitoring, as well as education for patients and health care providers.

Such solutions speed up delivery of high-quality health care, making it affordable when and where it is needed by enabling health professionals, care givers, and patients to use smart phones, tablets, or web browsers to securely, yet conveniently, send data, photos and videos to doctors and specialists. The ClickMedix application displays instructions and questions mimicking a physician's interview of a patient, allowing users to easily provide just the right information to remote medical experts simply by answering the questions on the application screen. We call this experience "One-Click Health".

Our first implementation was with Harvard Medical School's Associate Professor of Dermatology, Dr. Joseph Kvedar, who also founded the Center for Connected Health, along with Dr. Kuda Maloney, dermatology resident at Massachusetts General Hospital as principle investigators, and Dr. Lalla and Dr. Mckoy as participating dermatologists. They trained health workers in Trinidad and Tobago to use smartphones with ClickMedix application to screen for Hansen's Diseases (also known as leprosy). Dr. Kvedar commented, "Mobile health has great potential for providing low-cost, accessible and secure solutions to share health data, reach more diverse patient populations, and deliver educational messaging to patients. We are encouraged by the results of the ClickMedix study using smart phones to connect dermatologists with health workers in Trinidad and Tobago, to improve screening for Hansen's Disease."

ClickMedix is also working on pioneering health care programs such as Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus's Grameen Health and Research, to help deliver affordable health care to Grameen America's 10,000+ women microfinance entrepreneurs in New York. ClickMedix and Grameen Health and Research aims to provide low-income women with a mobile platform to facilitate care delivery and empower individuals to self-mange their chronic conditions. Since diabetes, obesity and hypertension are most prevalent among underserved communities, ClickMedix aims to transform how underserved communities in the U.S. access health care and provide an educational platform to substantially improve the overall health of low-income women and their families.

Allison Schwartz, Director of Grameen Health and Research, said "ClickMedix is now a crucial part of our program that will allow easy access to data and improve the connectivity of our health initiatives. Ting has not only supplied us with a wonderful product, but she also worked hard to make sure it was the right product for our organization. Ting's personality is what makes her company and product unique. Grameen will always be grateful for her insight and mobile health platform that will substantially enhance the effectiveness of our organization."

ClickMedix now has medical school, hospital, and health organization clients in the United States, Philippines, Uganda, Guatemala, Taiwan, Peru, China, Trinidad & Tobago, and India. We expect to launch in three more countries and Latin America next year.

What's Next? We are continuing to seek areas where our platform can help people. The health care of the rising senior population is one area. ClickMedix has recruited a leading health care expert, Ms. Jodi Lyons, author of The Smart Person's Guide to Eldercare (Keith Publications, 2013), to advise us on building solutions for home-based senior care in the United States and abroad. To increase health care capacity, we are developing certification-training programs for caregivers, health workers, and nurses with the help of Dr. Philip Miller, who is the world's leading expert in designing "authentic certification examinations" that can effectively assess skill-based training outcomes critical to ensuring trained health practitioners are well-equipped to improve lives.

Ting is a Cartier Women's Award finalist. For more information, please go here.

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