Recently eobiont sat down with one of the 10 finalists for this year’s World Health Summit Startup Track, Dr. Janko Brand and Tom Bley from OneWorldDoctors.org in Berlin, to find out about their concept, their impressions on being a finalist and what this opportunity would mean to them.
Simply put, OneWorldDoctors is like a crowdsourced Doctors Without Borders. Instead of highly specialized doctors moving to the areas where they are needed, they can make diagnoses and recommendations, no matter where they are, through a smartphone interface. Lab test results are transmitted via OneWorldDoctors anonymously, keeping patient information private, while allowing doctors across the world to connect for consultative support.
This could have advantages on both sides of the table. Doctors in remote locations with expertise that may differ from local cases can quickly and efficiently receive input from specialists from other places. “Doctors in hospitals always exchange ideas in a smaller cosmos. We want to simply expand this cosmos so that it is possible to get input from many different specialists. Through exchange is how we all get ideas and grow professionally,” says Dr. Brand. This could also be an attractive option for accredited doctors who specialize in an area of medicine that may not have high demand in their home countries. Brand adds, “Doctors get their personal life in the country where they want to live and also get to make a social contribution that they professionally or personally want.”
They are developing a commercial format for their business that will allow doctors to be paid. That said, there is much to be considered, such as avoiding brain drain, which robs countries with already weak health systems of their medical talent. They are also wary of the typical North-South divide. There are many developing countries with highly advanced medical resources, like Cuba and Colombia, who could also offer support to industrial countries or areas of an industrialized country in certain cases. “It is important to us that the support goes both ways,” says Brand.
Presently, OneWorldDoctors has 10 doctors in their network but their goal is to have 300 logged on by next year, tackling 50+ cases per day. They aim to first focus on just a few specific diseases such as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and the ZIKA virus and then scale up from there.
The idea came when Brand, a biochemist with experience in infection biology, was asked by the European Mobile Lab to go to Guinea to help with data evaluation during the Ebola epidemic. At the time, he was under contract elsewhere and couldn’t go. But because his heart was there, he decided to find another way to make it happen. He asked a colleague to send him the information so that he could evaluate remotely and email back recommendations in the evening when he was off work. The experience made him think about the need for communication between doctors worldwide, especially in difficult to diagnose cases. A few weeks later he saw an event posting for the World Health Summit on idw, or Informationsdienst Wissenschaft, a press forum dedicated to scientific topics. He was determined to go. “I emailed Detlev Ganten, [the founding president of the WHS] and told him I would help out on the weekend or do anything in order to get tickets.” Fortunately, the effort worked and he got in.
“The WHS is one of the best conferences I have attended,” says Brand, who believes the quality of the participants makes the WHS and the Startup Track platform the place to be for entrepreneurs looking to realize their global health ideas. “The attendees are the leaders in the industry. You really get to meet the people at the top who have enough influence to make a difference. I think OneWorldDoctors belongs there among them,” he says.
And what would winning the Startup Track mean to OneWorldDoctors? Tom Bley, the business and product development coordinator answers, “It would mean a big break for us.” With the success of last year’s winner, Gregory Rockson from mPharma, on their minds, they know what access to the right network can do. They are hoping that getting their ideas heard by the right people will lead to finding interested contacts, partners and investors who can help them bring their dreams to fruition.
We wish them good luck and are excited to see what they put together for their pitch in October.
In photo: Tom Bley and Janko Brand from OneWorldDoctors
For more information about the World Health Summit Startup Track go to: http://www.worldhealthsummit.org/the-summit/startup-track.html
For more information about OneWorldDoctors go to: https://oneworlddoctors.org