CEO Ting Shih on how ClickMedix empowers frontline health practitioners to serve as the virtual eyes, ears and hands of medical specialists through mobile technologies
ClickMedix is an award-winning social enterprise that enables coordinated healthcare delivery through mobile platforms. Services are delivered by frontline health practitioners using digital technology that improves access, lowers costs and enhances healthcare for patients throughout the world. Conceived in MIT’s Media Lab, ClickMedix has already been deployed in 15 countries (and is growing). It is extending the reach of medical experts, enabling more people to receive high-quality care despite their location, gender, age or income-level.
There will never be enough doctors to meet the world’s demand for healthcare. But what if we could use mobile technology to transfer the knowledge and expertise of talented doctors to areas in need, virtually extending doctors’ reach? Sound like a sci-fi movie?
Well, not anymore. Since 2011, ClickMedix has been successfully extending the reach of medical experts in remote areas. Deploying digital platforms – smartphones, tablets and laptops installed with our mobile-health application – we have helped health workers to become the virtual eyes and ears of medical experts. This allows doctors to treat patients who otherwise could not receive timely health care.
Using our technology, armies of frontline health workers can interact with patients directly and then digitally transmit information about their symptoms to medical experts. In this manner, we have extended the reach of each individual medical expert to thousands of patients. In addition, this process has created jobs, especially for women, who comprise the majority of frontline healthcare workers around the world.
How does ClickMedix work? Let’s look at one of our programs in India, where hearing loss is among the most commonly diagnosed health issues. Fortunately, hearing issues can often be treated effectively following timely diagnosis. However, delays in diagnosis can lead to life-threatening complications. Diagnosing common ear issues is largely dependent on access to specialist care, which may pose problems for patients in remote areas and those without the resources to access a specialist.
This is where ClickMedix enters the picture. Partnered with the world’s largest medical device company, Medtronic, we have enabled the successful launch of a program known as Shruti, in which health workers are trained to efficiently screen patients and then securely transmit patient data to specialists.
Shruti healthcare workers use ClickMedix’s easy-to-use, customizable mobile application to record basic patient data, conduct ear exams and refer patients with hearing issues to ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists. The ClickMedix application guides health workers through asking patients a series of questions. Based on the patients’ responses and the phone’s images, healthcare workers are able to make provisional diagnoses and recommend treatment or referral to surgical centers. To ensure accuracy, the ClickMedix application also sends the photos and data to ENT surgeons who can confirm the diagnoses and treatment plans.
Screenings are conducted in New Delhi and Hyderabad. During the past eight months, nearly 5,000 patients have been screened and treated for ear issues by just three part-time health workers. Each screening takes an average of three minutes per patient. After a few months of screening, it was demonstrated that the provisional diagnoses made by health workers were nearly as accurate as those made by remote ENT specialists. The ClickMedix application proved to be an effective tool for health screening and training, increasing productivity as well as the overall quality of service delivered by newly trained health workers.
The program has now been expanded and currently reaches more than 1,000 patients each month. There are plans for further expansion to cover 100 million patients who could otherwise suffer hearing loss. As a result of this success, ClickMedix is extending its model across the world for managing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. We aim to alleviate the burden placed on health systems by senior patients with chronic ailments by equipping frontline health practitioners such as nurses, pharmacists and primary care physicians with ClickMedix software.
In addition to the practical benefits of Shruti and other programs, ClickMedix is poised to reimagine healthcare delivery. We are not limited to simply connecting patients to doctors through video, the traditional medium of telemedicine. We connect patients to the right doctor – a medical expert whose vast experience in a particular specialty allows him or her to quickly determine an effective treatment plan. In addition, ClickMedix allows specialists to become more efficient since we have already collected the data needed to make a diagnosis. This allows the experts to see up to ten times more patients than would be possible through traditional face-to-face or video consultations.
We also help medical experts to create protocols useful for training frontline healthcare workers to serve as their eyes, ears and hands. With ClickMedix, this newly educated workforce is being empowered to provide high-quality care based upon advice from medical experts, many of whom are only available remotely.
So while doctors still can’t be in more than one place at a time, ClickMedix has been able to extend the reach of medical specialists, sending their expertise anywhere it’s needed. Thanks to the assistance of mobile technology and frontline health practitioners, doctors can virtually diagnose and provide treatment advice to thousands more patients than they could see individually. In the process, ClickMedix has created an ecosystem of financially sustainable healthcare delivery and has developed a largely female work force equipped with modern technology.
Ting Shih founder and CEO of ClickMedix
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