Woods and Switchboard win 2011 Mobile Health Top Innovators

Eric Woods, CEO and Founder of Switchboard, speaks at the 2011 mHealth Summit, after accepting the Top 11 Innovators in Mobile Health for 2011 Award. The award was selected by the mHealth Alliance and Rockefeller Foundation

Google funds Switchboard with $250,000 grant
We would like to sincerely thank Google for providing Switchboard with a grant of $250,000 to connect all doctors and nurses in Tanzania on a free mobile phone network.

Tanzania has one of the lowest health worker-to-patient ratios in the world, so there is a tremendous need to improve the communication and collaboration of health care professionals in the country.

In Tanzania, Switchboard will help create a network of 1,336 doctors and 13,000 nurses, so that any of these health professionals can communicate with one another, free of charge, using their mobile phones. Building off our experience connecting doctors on such a network in both Ghana and Liberia, this will be the first opportunity for Switchboard to expand the network to nurses — critical players in getting care to more patients, and further into remote areas.

Switchboard will also create and distribute a physical health worker directory to each person in the network, so that doctors and nurses can expand their social networks and consult with new colleagues

Finally, Switchboard will be able to lay the foundation for our Ensemble two-way bulk SMS platform, allowing the government to send critical information straight to health workers’ mobile phones and collect data in real-time.

We want to truly thank Google for their generosity, and support for the work of health professionals and the care of patients in Tanzania

Dr. Patricia Mechael joins Board

Switchboard is very pleased to announce that Dr. Patricia Mechael has joined our Board of Directors.

Dr. Mechael is one of the key thought leaders in mHealth. She serves as the Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance, a central convener for the mHealth community that shares tools, knowledge, experience, and lessons learned. Dr. Mechael has been actively involved in the field of International Health for 15 years with field experience in over 30 countries primarily in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. She previously served as the Director of Strategic Application of Mobile Technology at the Earth Institute and Millennium Villages Project at Columbia University, with a special focus on mHealth and telemedicine.

Dr. Mechael holds a Masters in International Health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Hygiene (1998) and a PhD in Public Health and Policy from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (2006), where she specifically examined the role of mobile phones in relation to health in Egypt.
Eric Woods is a Top Innovator in mHealth!
We are proud to announce that Eric Woods, CEO and co-founder of Switchboard, has been named one of the Top 11 Innovators in Mobile Health for 2011 from the mHealth Alliance and Rockefeller Foundation! Eric has been awarded the honor for his work with Switchboard’s MDNet initiative. Congrats to Eric and all the rest of the Top Innovators!!

Switchboard in 7×7 Magazine
A little press won’t hurt. 7×7 Magazine recently featured Switchboard in their December print edition. There is a nice photo and write up about Eric Woods and Craig Edelman, the founders of Switchboard. Look out for a copy, or check out the online article

Eric Woods of Switchboard is panelist at 2011 mHealth Summit
Eric Woods, CEO and Founder of Switchboard, will serve on the National Partnerships panel at the mHealth Summit being held December 5 – 7, 2011 in National Harbor, Maryland just outside of Washington DC. The mHealth Summit brings together leaders from across the mHealth ecosystem (government, the private sector, industry, academia, providers and not-for-profit organizations) to advance collaboration in the use of wireless technology to improve health outcomes in the United States and abroad. For more information

Switchboard CEO is Top 11 Innovators Finalist! Vote for us!
Eric Woods, CEO & Founder of Switchboard, has been selected as a finalist for the mHealth Alliance’s Top 11 Innovators in Mobile Health in 2011 challenge for his work on MDNet (or Mobile Doctors Network).

RCT shows text messaging to health workers in Kenya improves patient care.
The New York Times reported this week on a recent study showing that basic text messages that contain malaria care protocols allowed nurses in Kenya to handle 24% more cases correctly. The study, published in the Lancet, carried out a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) in which 119 randomly selected health workers received two text messages each day, containing national guidelines on how to treat children with malaria. The researchers assessed how well the health workers managed their cases, compared to a control group of health workers which did not receive the messages.

This is big news, and the first RCT study showing that text messages direct to health care providers makes a significant impact on patient care.

Among other things, the study shows that the text messages led to a 30% increase in health workers giving the first dose of malaria treatment at the facility. The researchers describe this action as critical, as it ensures immediate treatment, and is associated with continued adherence to the full treatment course. And, even after 6 months of the intervention, the text messages had significant impact on workers giving the first dose at the facility.

The article truly speaks well for our MDNet program. By developing an innovative way to create large nationwide networks of health professionals, we are building the foundation for governments and health organizations to scale just the kind of intervention described in the study.

Using free calling as an incentive to join, we create nationwide networks of health workers. This allows us to collect information on health workers’ locations, specialities, and mobile phone contact information. With our proposed Ensemble Bulk SMS system, governments and health organizations can then send text messages direct to health workers’ phones. So, with MDNet and Ensemble, governments can efficiently educate and remind health workers of care protocols of any kind – countrywide and across any specialty.

And, messaging health workers is not only beneficial to patients, it’s also cost-effective.

To quote the New York Times article:

“Since each text cost less than a penny, every nurse in rural Kenya could get reminders for $39,000, the study said. That is far cheaper than sending trainers or brochures, neither of which improved care much, the authors said.”

MDNet featured in WHO mHealth Report
After a multi-year global survey on eHealth, we’re excited about the World Health Organization’s (WHO) June release of their 2011 mHealth Report, featuring Switchboard and our close partner, the Ghana Medical Association.

The report, released by the WHO’s Global Observatory for eHealth, assesses mHealth activities in 112 countries. Our MDNet program in Ghana was highlighted as one of five case studies, and includes discussion of our approach to networking 2,200 physicians, along with program benefits, cost structure, and lessons learned.

The report identifies the diverse ways in which mobile devices are being used for health around the world. The report notes the clear emergence of mhealth initiatives in both developed and developing countries, and discusses mobile health programs’ effectiveness and obstacles to implementation.

Read through the report to get the most recent global perspective on mHealth.

Liberia’s Doctors Can Now Find One Another
We’re excited to announce the release of Liberia’s first-ever Doctor Directory.

On July 1, 2011, we will begin distribution of a printed Directory to all 181 doctors and 100 health facilities throughout the country. In Liberia, a total of 181 doctors serve a population of 4 million people. The Directory, sponsored through the generous support of Lonestar Cell (MTN), contains the contact details every doctor working in the Liberia, along with 22 hospital phones that are also connected to MDNet.

The Directory serves as an important phase of the MDNet program — allowing doctors to expand their support network and reach out to colleagues working in the country. And, of course, doctors can call any number listed in the Directory (doctors and facilities both) free of charge.

When we first launched MDNet in Liberia, we gave MTN SIM cards to every doctor. In exchange, they gave us their information (Name, Specialty, Location of Practice, etc), which we have amassed into this easy-to-use directory. Taking cues from MDNet physicians, we adjusted the size of the directory so that it could fit into the pockets of doctors’ white coats.

We hope that the Directory, listing doctors by both surname and specialty, will make it easier for doctors to find individuals or specialists to consult with or refer patients to. With so few doctors working in Liberia, it’s crucial that doctors have the tools to make it easier to work together.