CAMTech Pursues Global Health Innovation

Elizabeth Bailey is director of the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies, (CAMTech), a global health initiative headquartered at Massachusetts General Hospital. In this interview, she discusses how CAMTech is creating a forum for academic institutions, corporations, innovators, clinicians and entrepreneurs, one designed to enable them to pursue groundbreaking medical technology.

Q: What sets CAMTech apart from other groups working in global health technology?

Ms. Bailey: What is different about CAMTech is our focus on co-creation and sustainability. The CAMTech initiative brings together innovators from different disciplines – engineering, public health and business – and end-users from clinical environments to develop technology solutions. In addition, we are looking to jumpstart early-stage and established companies so they can pursue selling healthcare products that are designed for and would be impactful in low- and middle-income countries. Our goal is that once these ventures have developed sustainable models that their businesses would flourish without our support and benefit local economies and patients.

Q: In the global health arena, how do you jumpstart business?

Ms. Bailey: Through several avenues. Through our Innovation Award program, we are supporting several teams that have great ideas, but need resources to advance their technology. We have chosen to focus on maternal, newborn and child health, because two-thirds of all maternal and neonatal deaths occur in India and countries in Africa. Four out of our five Innovation Awards are targeting this area and include technologies in mobile health, diagnostics, medical devices and medical electronics. The potential impact of these technologies could significantly reduce mortality and morbidity among mothers and their young children in low- and middle-income countries.

CAMTech is also opening co-creation labs in India, Uganda and Boston. These labs create an environment to bring together clinical, business and engineering talent so they can develop technology solutions to the most pressing global health challenges. This cross-disciplinary collaboration is often where we see the most exciting innovation, because multiple and different perspectives at work on the same problem yields the most robust thinking.

And we are starting regular “hack-a-thons,” offered through a partnership with MIT. A hack-a-thon is a collaborative gathering where clinicians, engineers, entrepreneurs and end-users form teams to come up with technology solutions that are innovative, impactful and commercially-viable. We had our first hack-a-thon at MGH in the fall of 2012 with 80 participants, the second at our partner site in India with over 400 participants, and our third at our partner site in Uganda in August.

Q: What is the biggest challenge?

Ms. Bailey: One of the major constraints when we think about developing world markets is the health worker shortage. That is why we’re focusing on technology to change the equation. Technology can provide decision-support tools, management tools and diagnostic tools to help healthcare providers work smarter and more efficiently. In short, technology makes better use of a limited healthcare workforce today as we build human resource capacity for tomorrow.

Q: How can philanthropy help with such global health efforts?

Ms. Bailey: Philanthropy helps support our core programs by allowing us to build partnerships worldwide among entrepreneurs, innovators and expert clinicians here at MGH and around the world. It is through this vast network of innovators that we are going to find ideas and technologies that can change our approach to global health. By supporting the CAMTech platform, innovators have a way to collaborate with one another – across disciplines, across sectors and across geographies. It can also help CAMTech create a roadmap for existing businesses and investors who want to pursue global health technology but don’t know the way yet. Philanthropy serves as a launching pad to make a sustainable impact at home and around the world.

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