This article by Ambra Health CEO, Morris Panner, was originally published in Forbes on December 2, 2020.
Relief and aid organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) have long been sending dedicated physicians and nurses to places around the world where there is an urgent need for medical expertise. These are often impoverished regions where the lack of financial resources leads to both a high need for health services and a lack of qualified people to provide them.
Medical Technology Helps Close The Gap
While there is a lot that visiting doctors can do to help, from administering vaccines to diagnosing and treating illnesses, there is also a great need for medical equipment that can be quite costly or difficult to obtain. The most effective healthcare frequently depends on the availability of up-to-date technology, and that is why there is an increasing number of nonprofits with a mission to bring medtech to communities in need.
For example, RAD-AID, a non-profit founded in 2008 and working in dozens of countries, is committed to improving access to medical imaging and radiology in low-resource regions. However, their work isn’t only about bringing diagnostic equipment to areas with limited access to imaging tech. A large part of what they do also involves assessing needs and providing health informatics technologies (along with training) because, as they put it, “Digital health information technologies save lives and cut costs.” For this reason and others, my company, Ambra Health, is a proud RAD-AID partner.
Health Tech Access Alliance is another medtech nonprofit that focuses on helping underserved communities in the U.S. and also seeks to supply providers with superior healthcare technology and training. They work with organizations ranging from small rural clinics to urban community health centers that serve the uninsured so that they can better protect patient privacy, expand care and fend off possible security problems like cyberattacks.
Elsewhere, Medic Mobile is creating its own healthcare technology designed to empower people in hard-to-reach communities. Mostly in use in parts of Asia and Africa so far, Medic Mobile offers open-source software that helps with treating illnesses, managing resources and communicating emergencies, among other capabilities. For example, Medic Mobile is being used to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality by tracking antenatal and postnatal care visits, guiding healthcare workers through visits, screening for high-risk pregnancies and danger signs, referring clients to facilities and much more.
Nonprofits Foster Collaboration And Innovation
Being able to help those who are most vulnerable and in need is reason enough for creating and supporting organizations like these. However, they also offer other valuable benefits to the healthcare community in general.
The problems posed by the difficult circumstances these organizations face can serve as an incubator for unexpected innovations. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and sometimes a lack of resources can inspire greater creativity in problem-solving, which is how you can end up with services like Medic Mobile. If such innovations show potential to serve communities on a broader scale, they could possibly be adopted or adapted by governments and private sector companies.
Nonprofits can also provide an opportunity for companies and organizations from different sectors to collaborate and learn from one another. For instance, RAD-AID’s other partners include a broad range of players, such as professional associations and prominent NGOs, as well as international pharma firm Bayer and technology giant Google. Coming together for a common charitable purpose has the potential to open doors to other initiatives or partnerships.
Whether lending support to people in a rural part of middle America who have fallen on hard times or helping to revitalize a community halfway across the globe, there are numerous nonprofit organizations that are thankfully doing tech for good. There are ways for all of us to get involved, including donating, spreading the word, volunteering as a medical/healthcare professional or becoming a partner. Not only can supporters and partners lend their expertise to help fulfill the organization’s mission, they stand to learn a lot, too.