Mobile technology is not just the future of health care, it’s changing lives now.
Toyota’s Mother of Invention, Ting Shih, CEO and founder of ClickMedix, and New York-based dermatologist Dr. Achiamah Osei-Tutu spoke Thursday at the Women in the World Summit about advancing health care in developing countries. Specifically, how mobile phones can bring medical access to those with few resources, during a conversation moderated by CNN’s Poppy Harlow.
The idea started as a class project at MIT where Shih was challenged to create a business that would “affect a billion people.”
“Everyone needs health care,” Shih explained. “And all around the world, most people have a phone before they even have electricity. So why not use mobile phones to deliver health care?”
With this revelation, ClickMedix, a software technology that allows patients and health workers to get consultations from specialists, was born. The platform allows for remote diagnoses by taking a photo of an injury with a smartphone and sending it to a doctor halfway around the world for analysis. The technology also provides remote training and supervision of health workers in countries that have shortages of medical professionals.
Shih initially launched ClickMedix in 2011 in Botswana to screen women for cervical cancer.
“I wanted to start this in the place that was the most difficult to see if it worked,” Shih said. “And it did.”
From there, the technology spread to Ghana and is now used in 16 countries to expedite treatment, reduce costs and improve patient care. ClickMedix has already helped screen and treat over 100,000 patients in India for ear infections and has been used to treat a 9-year-old in China suffering from cancer, among numerous other successes.
Unfortunately, not everyone is on board.
“Technology is moving faster than the legislation,” Dr. Osei-Tutu, who has expanded her New York dermatology practice through ClickMedix, told the audience. Many patients in underdeveloped countries don’t have health insurance or insurance companies aren’t mandated to provide coverage for the technology. As a result, physicians abroad are often not paid, or only paid a fraction of the the normal cost for medical care. “Doctors need to be reimbursed for their services,” she said.
As a solution, Shih is looking at new payment models to make sure doctors are properly compensated, while continuing to drive down costs for patients. Shih intends to show legislators, insurance companies, doctors, and patients that “telehealth is legitimate from a clinical perspective and reduces costs.”
“The ultimate goal is to have one-click health care,” Shih said. “Whether you have cancer or heart failure, you should have a one-click portal to get to the doctors and care that you need.”