Behind the Scenes With Health eVillages

I recently had the opportunity to head out to San Francisco to attend the Health 2.0 conference – I was pretty jazzed since this would be my third time out there since first attending as a volunteer in 2008. I think as the Health 2.0 field has matured over the past few years, there have been some pretty interesting initiatives and companies popping up. Being interested in covering this sort of innovation, I was pleased to see a company catch my interest – Health eVillages.

From what I initially gathered, the Health eVillages initiative works to integrate technology into healthcare systems around the globe. It looks like mobile is the main focus. The site’s landing page has a video to give you a glimpse into who is behind the program as well. Through press connections at the conference, I got a chance to catch up with Health eVillages’ co-founder and CEO of Physicians Interactive, Donato Tramuto – in order to get some thoughts on the history and inner workings.

P/S: What prompted the creation of Health eVillages?

DT: I am a firm believer that healthcare is a right for every single individual on this earth. It’s not just the access to care that is so important but it’s the quality of care- every person deserves good, adequate healthcare. As CEO of Physicians Interactive, we strive to make healthcare more efficient and adequate through the use of mobile technology. A few years ago my sister-in-law died in childbirth due to a medical error so I’ve become very passionate in working to provide safer care– mobile information technology can significantly help make this possible. In an age where advancements in technology are surpassing all expectations, it is unimaginable that today there are areas in the world, including here in the U.S., where people continue to suffer and die due to a lack of access to sufficient healthcare. This is what prompted me to start Health eVillages- I wanted to make an impact.

About a year ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Kerry Kennedy through my involvement with her wonderful organization, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. She, along with her father, is a great hero of mine and her work has been inspirational. With her incredible commitment and passion to human rights and my expertise in the mobile medical technology field, we created Health eVillages to bring technology to areas where people often have no access to clean water, much less modern medical care.

P/S: How does education for community health workers/physicians take place regarding use of mobile phones?

DT: Because the clinics in most of the areas where these Health eVillages mobile medical devices are being implemented do not have the facilities to hold medical references or have the money to buy new editions and stay updated with the most current medical conditions, the mobile phones allow physicians to access information through the touch of a button. Doctors can easily find medical references, resources and solutions to a medical question or issue on their phone. These mobile devices are easy to use and is something that they can have on them at all times without having to go through medical books that they might not even have.

P/S: Have the results from the pilot programs been received yet? If so, where can that information be found?

DT: To date, the organization has conducted pilot programs in several regions, including in Haiti, Uganda, the Greater Gulf Coast, and Lwala, Kenya. Because Health eVillages is new, we’re still in the process of collecting detailed feedback and data on the outcomes of these phones. We’ve worked with volunteer nurses at the Angels of Hope Clinic in Mattuga, Uganda, providing them with a number of mobile devices and mobile technical support in an area without basic electricity. Based on their successful use of the mobile technology, the organization has requested additional devices and applications as they begin their expansion into Northern Uganda.

P/S: Is there a process to how Health eVillages receives the donated phones? Is that a process the general public can get involved with like Hope Phones?

DT: Unlike Hope Phones, Health eVillages only distributes smart phones which better support the Skyscape medical application. However, we are similar in that we are resourceful by distributing refurbished phones. Since we’re still in the early stage, we have not reached out to the general public for donated phones- it is definitely a possibility….

P/S: What is the process for ensuring that the software loaded onto the phones are useful for each of the communities in the pilot programs? Is there a sort of co-creation/development process in order to maximize effectiveness?

DT: The new and refurbished mobile phones and handheld devices do not require Internet access and are preloaded with clinical decision support reference tools to ensure that caregivers and patients have access to updated medical references in remote locations around the world. All devices include drug guides, medical alerts, journal summaries and references from over 50 medical publisher resources powered by Skyscape.com, Inc. Health eVillages has had brainstorming sessions with healthcare workers during the pilot program to get feedback on the devices and how they could be improved to better fit the workers’ needs.

Big thanks to the Donato and the team over at Health eVillages for this look behind the scenes. I’m all about practical use of technology to change the infrastructure and processes for sustainable impact. Looking forward to following up when the initiative gets even more data on the pilot programs.

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