Oh, and there’s not a dime to spare.
This is the challenge faced by many rural health centers utilizing a system of community health workers who travel from clinics to reach patients in very isolated regions. They usually travel by foot or bike. They often cover such large areas that they may not return to the base clinic more than once a month.
In wealthier regions solutions would probably involve large scale databases, interactive web pages, medical equipment hooked up to doctors in centralized locations and maybe even a car or two.
Sometimes a lack of resources and a will to succeed is more than ample to create a real world changing difference.
Frontline SMS:Medic was one of the business plans presented as part of the NU Venture Challenge at the Northwestern University Farley Center for Innovation Entrepreneurship Summit last month. What an aggressive group. They have already deployed several systems, received the NU Venture Challenge ‘Best Social Entrepreneurship’ award and recently won the N2Y4 Moble Challenge.
The solution? Text messaging.
Through open source software (FrontlineSMS), inexpensive (yet rugged) cell phones, a basic PC at the health center and a GSM modem they are able to set up a robust communication network for health workers and the community health center. Information is of higher quality and instantaneously updated and available.
Sometimes it’s the budget and infrastructure limits that actually drive the most robust and useful solution. When you know what money can’t buy you figure out ways to make due while making great – cardboard creativity in action. The young company even operates in an unusual, low cost way. While the idea was hatched in the summer of 2008 and the company launched this past February – the first face-to-face meeting of most the team didn’t occur until March.
They’ve been working as a virtual organization all along.
The innovative solution they have developed takes into account the limited infrastructure available and can be implemented for just a few thousand dollars. But even this low cost solution stretches budgets.
As I said in my previous post – it’s nice to see young entrepreneurs face challenges. They bring a can-do spirit that is invigorating. FrontlineSMS:Medic is operating in a niche that other organizations could not serve.
If you happen to have a spare cellphone hanging around, check out www.hopephones.org. Donating your phone could help spur a revolution in medical records technology.
Photo Credit: © 2009 Adrian Sparrow via www.istockphoto.com.