Josh Bolinger: Bringing Health to Developing Communities
The race is on. Health technology is getting smaller, lighter, less expensive, and easier to use.
With the advent of portable smart devices, a revolution has taken place in the field of medical devices. Nowadays, you can convert a handheld device into a blood pressure monitor, a glucose tester, an EKG, or any of a thousand other useful, potentially life-saving little machines.
I even read recently of an X-prize style competition to create a Tricorder-like device, that would combine a variety of general functions all in one small package.
This also changes the entire process of getting medical help to the developing world. For so long, the model for getting medical assistance into developing communities was to create a basic infrastructure – supply a decent amount of electricity, build a clinic, and then you had the ability to place diagnostic tools into the clinics, where they could be protected from theft and the elements, supplied, and used by experts who stayed in a central location and waited for sick people to come to them.
But with the advent of miniature, portable devices to do many of these same tasks, the whole model changes. Now, a medical practitioner in an under-developed area can take many of those tools out into the field with them, using solar chargers for the minimal power requirements, and storing patient records in hand-held databases.
No longer is the first step to build a clinic and get a generator in there, and then protect that location from theft or bandits. A health care worker can be completely mobile, and not dependent on the location of a building, and so not limited to a set geographical area.
Changing this model has a huge impact on how philanthropic or non-profit organizations need to spend their resources in order to deliver basic medical services to isolated areas. Now, with less need for a bricks-and-mortar infrastructure, more can be spent on the actual delivery of services.
Helping people is important. So is doing it wisely.