Friday 1 April 2016, 11:21 | By Adam Hallows
In the news March 2016: These ideas will change lives
It’s been a good month for stories about innovators challenging the ‘status quo’ in health.
And as more of us live longer, and with multiple health needs, then the urgency grows to promote the creative ways technology is being used to radically change healthcare.
This piece, which featured in The Huffington Post, revealed how entrepreneurs are creatively using digital technology to change health and wellbeing for women in India.
Tech for good
Writing around International Women’s Day, Vicki Hearn, who is Director of ‘tech for good funder’ Nominet Trust, focused on India as it currently sits at 130 on the UN’s Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index. But as the world’s fastest growing economy, with increasing access to the internet and growing support for entrepreneurship, she believes the opportunity for change is great.
And as part of a search for ‘inspirational social tech projects’ for their NT100 showcase, she has highlighted three mobile technology initiatives, “led by incredible female entrepreneurs, [who] are not only radically improving the daily lives of women, but also forming part of a more significant movement towards gender parity.”
The initiatives are enabling vital health information to be delivered to new and expectant mothers, allowing diseases such as TB to be treated ‘on the doorsteps’ of rural communities (via this portable biometric tracking system), and revealing hotspots where women feel less secure through ‘crowd-mapping‘. They have resulted in lower infant mortality, more completed treatment regimens and increased security for women in public places.
You can find out more about these projects and others like them here, but Hearn’s article wasn’t the only on entrepreneurial innovation from India that we saw this month. Another article we shared, via Tech Crunch, suggested that innovators are more likely to find support in the places where it is needed the most…
According to academic and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa; “The cost of building world-changing technologies has dropped exponentially and made it possible for entrepreneurs anywhere to solve the grand challenges of humanity – and disrupt entire industries.”
He uses the example of Kanav Kahol, a former biomedical engineer and researcher in the U.S. who, frustrated by the lack of desire to bring down the cost of diagnostic testing in the States, returned home to help find a solution to the problem in India.
The result was a device that ‘performs medical tests, including blood and urine, within minutes for 1/100th of the cost of what would be paid in the U.S.’. The small device removes the need for paperwork, delays, and high costs, and carry’s out 33 common medical tests including those for diseases such as malaria, dengue, hepatitis, HIV, and typhoid.
Developing and using technology like this, argues Wadhwa, is within the power of developed nations like the U.S. But until the desire to recognise and support those creating it increases, then it is more likely to find backers in continents where it is needed most.
Our job at CSL then, and others who support disruptive technologies changing the status quo, is to continue finding and sharing their successes, wherever it may happen. We needn’t always look abroad however, as one innovative London surgeon is set to make another world first, using tech some think is just for playing computer games…
On April 14, Shafi Ahmed, a consultant surgeon at St Bartholomew’s hospital, will use Virtual Reality technology to live-stream an operation on a cancer patient so viewers can ‘feel as if they are in the operating theatre‘.
Quoted here in the Guardian, Ahmed says that VR technology will “address the global inequalities in surgical health and allow trainees and surgeons to connect and train remotely across the world. It showcases virtual reality for what it should be used for – education. This is a gamechanger and they can see if anything goes wrong how we react to it.”
No stranger to innovation, Shafi Ahmed was also the first to live-stream an operation using Google Glass, an operation watched by a reported 13,000 surgical students, healthcare professionals and members of the public in more than 100 countries.
The goal, says the self-confessed ‘futurist’, is to “…create the virtual surgeon. You could have a patient in virtual reality, be able to pick up a scalpel, make a cut and do a virtual operation first before doing it for real.”
So much more educational than just playing computer games, though far less likely to be enjoyed with friends.
For more stories like these, as well those about the role of the creative arts in helping us understand connected health, tech and creativity, make sure to follow us on Twitter.