Mission > Innovations

Telemedicine

Innovations in Telemedicine

After surveying the vast landscape of medical care needs in the BOP environment, SIMPLE Ventures has elected to develop innovations in the telemedicine space, in particular those based on mobile phone/USB technologies. SV believes that this space of medical device innovations will deliver the highest and most readily measurable impact to the health care needs in the developing countries. The simple fact is this: in order to service those in need, the provider has to be able to be in touch with them, directly and in real time. While some of the poorest areas in the world might not have power, water, or easy access, they have mobile phone coverage. Medical care can be effectively delivered through the mobile phone network in the BOP environment.

Examples of Innovations

A specific example of the kinds of high impact innovations that SV will be developing is one directed to the care of women at the later stage of pregnancy. Each minute one woman dies in the developing world related to pregnancy and delivery, often associated with the equally grim implication of infant mortality and morbidity. A mobile phone based ultrasound imaging device utilized by a local health worker could save the lives of many of these women and infants in the remote villages by timely diagnosing placenta previa by a physician miles away in an urban center. This early diagnosis allows the mother to be transported to a hospital for C-section delivery, and thus avoid the mother and infant from bleeding to death going into labor in the remote location.

Another example of area for high impact investment could be in the prevention and early intervention of cervical cancer in women, the second most common female cancer in the developing world, where every two minutes a woman dies from this disease. Cervical cancer is rare in the industrialized world since it can be prevented by screening pelvic examinations and early intervention at the pre-cancerous stage. Over 90% of the women in the developing world have never had a pelvic examination in their life. NEJM reported that a simple pelvic examination screening performed one or two times for these women can prevent 40% of the cervical cancer. The cost per year of lives saved by the different screening methods in the BOP environment ranges from $91 in India to $109 in South Africa, not much at all considering the value of a woman’s life, and yet the said cost and logistics prevent the implementation of such life saving screening programs.

We can overcome the cost and implementation hurdles by the development of a low cost mobile phone based telephoto-colposcopy system, operated by a local aid worker, to allow a physician hundreds of miles away to visually diagnose pre-cancerous lesions on the cervix and then direct the local aid worker to treat the lesion right then and there with an innovative low cost robust cryotherapy or RF ablation unit. This might be the only visit that the woman may have the opportunity to have in her life, and yet that visit would save her life.