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Bottom-up innovation vital in healthcare

March 19, 2014

 
Dr Jeeshan Chowdhury 
Rhodes scholar, Dr Jeeshan Chowdhury, argued the case for ‘bottom-up innovation in healthcare’ during a lecture at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.

Chowdhury is the co-founder of Hacking Health and is in his final year of medical school at the University of Alberta after completing a DPhil studying health information technology at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

The full title of his presentation was: Clinician-led Development of Digital Health: The case for bottom-up innovation in Healthcare.

Chowdhury began his research training at NASA where the challenge of human spaceflight sparked his interdisciplinary approach to develop innovative solutions. He has since worked throughout the technology pipeline from designing experimental hardware diagnostics to the implementation and assessment of commercialised software platforms. He recently launched his own digital start-up, Listrunnerapp.com, a point of care collaboration tool aimed at improving rounds and handovers for clinical teams.

Hacking Health, established by Chowdhury in 2012, is a social organisation which brings innovators and healthcare experts together, aiming to assemble solutions to front-line healthcare problems through the use of up-and-coming technology. By working with public hospitals and universities, the people at Hacking Health are able to use digital innovations to solve problems which occur at a grassroots level within the community.

 ‘While technology has advanced rapidly over the last 20 years, healthcare has not,’ said Chowdhury. ‘The flow of the healthcare system has increased, along with the rise in healthcare costs, yet technology in comparison, has had a rapid decrease in cost efficiency. This paradoxical scenario between the two aspects of healthcare and technology raises the fundamental question: How does one introduce IT to a system that has utilised more traditional methods that date back to the 1960’s?’

Chowdhury explains that top-down approaches to modernise healthcare have failed within the healthcare system due to the dictating use of technology and that in a complex bureaucratic system, by promoting a bottom-up approach, problems which happen on the ground and affect doctors and patients can be addressed directly.

Utilising a method called a Hack-A-Thon, a hacking marathon, engineers set themselves a challenge to achieve results to a particular dilemma within 48 hours. These Hack-A-Thons get clinicians, patients, developers, designers, entrepreneurs and doctors to all work together and combat a particular problem head on.

 Chowdhury said within healthcare it was important to notice the larger perspective outside of the healthcare system. In order for something to be more efficient, logistics and information management needed to be considered important as well as the clinical practices. The advantage of fusing the two was the collection of crucial data from the front line.

Listrunner, one of Hacking Health’s successful digital ventures, is an application which was created as a safe and secure way for clinical teams of doctors to share notes, tasks and vital information about their patients between shifts. With numerous transitions between doctors in the healthcare system, there is a high risk and vulnerability associated with patients and their information. The application allows for a smoother flow of information between doctors who are able to assist patients effectively when provided with all the vital information necessary which is stored on Listrunner.

Chowdhury said there was a need for efficient IT in healthcare and Hacking Health’s growth had been enormous, with the organisation having spread to 25 cities in two years. Listrunnerapp.com’s software is being used in Alberta, Canada and is currently undergoing a trial in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.

- Zakia Jeewa

Zakia Jeewa

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