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Nine months ago, the Health eVillages coalition launched with the goal of bringing mobile health tools and education to underserved parts of the world. Since that time, the organization has established roughly 100 partnerships with physicians in Haiti, parts of Africa and China, and is working to support a clinic in rural Louisiana.
"That's 100 more than last year," says Donato Tramuto, the organization's founder and CEO, "but it isn't good enough."
Founded in September of 2011 through a partnership between the Robert E. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Physicians Interactive, a Marlborough, Mass.-based developer of mobile and web-based clinical resource tools for physicians (of which Tramuto is vice chairman), Health eVillages has succeeded in pushing the latest in mobile technology, such as smartphones, iPods and iPads, to healthcare professionals in places where they're needed the most. The mobile tools are used to access clinical decision support tolls and other resources.
Tramuto, who has criss-crossed the country, speaking at such events as the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco and HIMSS12 in Las Vegas, said the organization now has a strong board of advisors and has raised more than $250,000 in donations. It's now establishing relationships with other organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, Project Hope, the Clinton Foundation and Partners in Health, and is looking to branch out beyond the original six pilot projects.
"We're now monitoring the pilots as opposed to launching them, which is a good sign," he says.
Tramuto says he's heard countless stories of mobile tools used to improve healthcare delivery, educate professionals whose only other medical tools are 50-year-old books, and save lives. They've been used to educate anesthesiologists, help doctors with difficult births, and identify diseases or medical conditions that hadn't been seen before.
The success is measurable. Tramuto says more than half of the healthcare providers equipped with mobile tools through Health eVillages are using those devices several times a day to look up information. That's an important statistic when compared to studies that show that 38 percent of U.S. doctors are using iPads at work and another 28 percent are planning on using them soon.
And yet, the rural Louisiana project is infuriating, Tramuto says. Launched with the intent to bring needed services to areas hard hit by Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, it's been delayed and hindered by political battles over funding. That's indicative, he says, of the pace of mHealth adoption in developed countries, where doctors are reluctant to change their workflows and mHealth is seen as a luxury rather than an improvement to healthcare delivery.
"For example, Silicon Valley hasn't come up with one medical app that fits the patient's needs," he says. "You don't have to be in a Third World country to recognize the need for (mHealth) … but that's where it's working."
Among the future projects for Health eVillages, Tramuto says, are pilots in community health centers.
Tramuto says there have been many lessons learned along the way. Each program has to be tailored to its environment. In areas in which the power grid is less than reliable, for example, solar chargers are used to keep the medical devices powered. Some programs need to be directed to doctors and nurses, others to medical schools, still others to midwives and social workers. And the programs have to be supported and reinforced as time goes by.
"You can't be like a seagull," he says. "You can't just fly in and dump your program and leave."
For more information, visit http://www.healthevillages.org/
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