Ting Shih: “ ClickMedix can save lives” !
Selected from an applicant pool of over 1000 projects, the finalists for 2012 of the Cartier Woman Initiative Award come from 15 different countries. They all lead compagnies. UFFP met the laureate for North America. Beautiful Ting Shih was oustanding at the Cartier Women’s Iniative Award this last fall. During our talk,we tackled the many issues related to non access to medical care in some regions of the World. By the use of mobile phones and internet, ClickMedix provides healthcare in developing countries. A digital solution that do saves lives !
When Ting Shih was an MBA student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was given the challenge of creating a healthcare business that would serve a billion people in the developing world. ‘The key word is people: before you even tackle the issues of the healthcare market, you need to address people’s access to it,’ she explains. ‘In developing countries they have scarce access to healthcare, but they do have mobile phones, and the idea spread from there, and all the way to the developed world too.’
Specialist care a click away
The basic idea is simple: use mobile technology to give underserved areas access to medical diagnosis via photos, videos and texts.
While smartphone penetration is at an early stage in much of the developing world, mobile penetration is high: in Africa, for example, it is at 72% and rising, according to a GSM Association report. ‘SMS and standard mobile technology cannot capture all multimedia data,’ says Ting. ‘For telemedicine and diagnosis to be most effective, you need a decent image quality and effective transmission.’ Rather than setting up costly cameras and broadband cables, the answer is to equip medical centres and workers with a smartphone that can transmit the protocols and data required for diagnosis by experts hundreds or thousands of miles away.
By Elyssa Souissi
Interview with UFFP
What do Click Medics offer ?We use mobile phones to connect patients to doctors. It allows patients to receive care in less than 72 hours. It also allows doctors to see four times more patients.
What’s the input of digital communications ? Well it allows you to have all the information’s doctors need already packaged together. It makes it more faster to provide the correct diagnosis.
What triggered the need to create such a project? We initially developed the project for developing countries as they don’t always have access to health care in some regions. But now that I live in the US, I realized we also had the same problems. It takes a long time to wait for an appointment to the doctor and usually there is a shortage of doctors as well. Especially when it comes to chronic diseases. We learn very usually, that we can simply take pictures or videos. For example, when it comes to having an abscess in your mouth. You take the picture and you send it to your doctor and then the doctor will know the treatment to give to the patient.
Your project saves lives in certain conditions ? I hope so and it absolutely does ! what we realize also is that there is a certain stigma against going to hospitals. So for Dominican Republic, there is a certain mistrust against the system. And women rather have birth in their homes but they are not always well equipped. But for me, the most horrible stories is when young women are forced into marriage while still being a teen. They are not ready to be pregnant so many of them die because there is no skills and no equipments for labor especially at their age.
So what are you doing to prevent these deaths because of teen pregnancy? We train women teenagers to become nurses to provide the good healthcare during labor. This way you get them out of this vicious circle of being young mothers and dying early. You help them train the other women.
There is something great about womanity? Yes women are generous, once they know something they always want to teach to the others. This breaks the cycle of death!
When you give the skills to women, you save a part of the world? Women care for their family and community, and it is crucial !
In the US what kind of situations do you have? Healthcare in the US is so expensive, indeed it is of course another kind of problem. In the developed Countries, we have the problem related to distance. When we need to see a specialist for instance like gynecology, it is three times more difficult to have access to them. In the US, there is a prevalence of skin cancer so to see a dermatologist; it is very difficult. In the south people like to get tans and they expose themselves to the sun. So if you want to see a dermatologist it takes six month of wait at least. It is very expensive and sometimes insurance doesn’t cover. There is like a lot of hidden costs so people don’t do prevention and when they come to the consultant it is really bad.
Health is not a democratic process from North to South ? We are starting t his service also with very rich asian countries, they actually cannot access to proper health care. They cannot access those doctors whatever amount of money they have, just because they don’t know the Europeans or American specialists available. These people come from Taiwan or China.
How do you get an appointment with a US doctor? You need the connection, the referral and they don’t always have an idea on how to do that ! We have a network of doctors, we know which one would like to see patients. They are willing to travel the patients and more and more medical tourism allows them to visit the country as well as getting the medical appointment they need. Which ever way, it is very hard also to do the follow up once the patient is back home. So click medic is also intervening at this point. Mobile phone and internet allows you t o the follow up. A lot of time we are faced to infection of the wound and just after the surgery, you can die of infections. Complications can arise even after having seen the doctor you paid a lot of money for.
So recovery stage is also important and is handled by you ? Yes we do provide the follow up and we monitor the patients.
Can Click Medics be implemented in any country? We are in the USA, the Philippine, Peru, Guatemala, Uganda, Taiwan. We have contacts with Albert Einstein’s Institute medical school and we send medical students to Uganda to provide them with specialist care and they use the mobile phone for that. They capture informations and then send them to the doctors at Albert Einstein’s Institute. They have been doing this for a year and we have seen so many cases of HIV cases and we identify lack of medication needs and we also bring the students in very rural places in Uganda.
Do you educate in prevention? We have also a similar work product too. We can include videos of how to do examination as well as treatment, all that educational material can be presented directly on the mobile phones too.
In the Arabic work there is a lot of taboo with some medical issues? Exactly, and our program can be adapted to them. We have done a pilot in the past in Egypt to help women who are not accustomed to doctors. So many symptoms can be treated remotely. We look up symptoms and provide suggestions on what to do. We have provided to Taiwanese people US travels to have consultations. We also provide medication ingredients.
Your Cartier experience? It has been surprisingly an amazing experience because it is a new woman’s initiative and I haven’t heard about it before. So it is very impressive hence surprising ! it felt like going back to business school in a way and my coach was impressive so he really helped in terms of how to do the market size. In Health Care it is never easy and you have to talk about what you can adresse and that was difficult for me to articulate that, but my coach did help a lot !