One email was all it took to set Maisha Meds in motion four months ago. This email, from the Stanford Biodesign Global Exchange Program, requested proposals for innovative ideas for new technologies related to global health. And we said, “Ideas? We have ideas!” Maisha Meds is a team of students that are passionate about supporting health service provision in developing countries that had recently seen the rise of 3G, sms, and MPESA. We hope to build systems and technology for the nurses and clinical officers all over East Africa who serve as the backbone of the health system, often times working in one-room facilities in deeply rural areas, serving large populations without much support or guidance from doctors. Our ideas about how exactly to do this were still vague, but we figured this would allow us to explore and understand the needs before we settled on one final concept.
A flurry of emails commenced, to and from inspiring people in the Bay Area and Kenya to see who might be interested in working together to build health technology systems for Android devices. It was humbling and exciting to hear from people who are doing incredible work in this space offer up advice, support, and time to this project. And it was equally exciting to see the support that Stanford was willing to provide to a young team with a big idea.
And so, four months later, Maisha Meds has begun working with partners to test our first prototype, a medical protocol that guides clinicians in diagnosis and treating patients for commonly-seen illnesses. We recognize the work that has come before in this space – projects like OpenMRS, Open Data Kit, CommCare, and Medic Mobile have provided a vision and a great suite of products for healthcare technology in resource-limited settings. But in places like Kenya, where there is one doctor for every 7,000 people, or Tanzania, with one doctor for every 50,000 people, there is still a significant potential for more and better healthcare that leverage both existing and new technologies.
Maisha Meds is a team united in this vision, that we can contribute to improved access to healthcare in settings where traditional models of care just don’t make sense. We are excited to work with innovative and forward-thinking partners in Kenya, understanding their needs and supporting them with technology. Maisha Meds does not intend to reinvent the wheel – we recognize that there are many teams already doing extraordinary work in this space, and that we can learn a lot from them. But we also recognize that by thinking end-to-end about how a health facility should work and designing systems accordingly, we have a great deal to contribute. We are excited to experiment, learn as much as we can, question our assumptions, and design products that will improve access to high-quality care.