By Aaron Hochman-Zimmerman
Dec. 8, Interstate 95 – Jason and I slogged through the first real snowstorm of the season on our way to Washington DC with his electronic rock providing the soundtrack. I prefer country, but never minding all that, we had business to do.
We were headed down to the mHealth Summit, right outside Washington DC, where we had been graciously offered a free booth by the mHealth Alliance, an advocacy alliance hosted by various foundations including the Rockefeller, UN, and Vodafone foundations. For those unfamiliar, “mHealth” is short for mobile-health. The expression represents the idea that immense progress can be made in healthcare by integrating mobile technologies into the toolsets available to healthcare providers.
On the way down we went over how we would present our case to each different type of organization we might come across at the conference. Mobile phones, in conjunction with our simple software, Beacon, can create a 911-style ambulance dispatching service where none currently exists. The resulting, financially sustainable ambulance service would be comprised of local community members, including taxi- and truck-drivers, who have received basic, essential emergency response training.
We also couldn’t help but notice that the cars which hadn’t fared so well in the snow were stuck on the side of the road. Jason and I both know that there are many places in the world where, when things like that happen, you are just simply on your own until some Good Samaritan takes pity on you. Fortunately, the travelers on I-95 were never far from trained professionals – and we saw plenty of them.
As we crossed the bridge into Virginia, the convention complex was already in view. The conference center was enormous and connected to the even more enormous hotel complex. Then, this was all surrounded by enough shopping and restaurants to discourage anyone from leaving. Inside, the self-contained community became only more bizarre. A pre-teen beauty pageant and dance competition was apparently just wrapping up and all of the pre-teens, severely made-up in their Scarlett O’Hara, antebellum-best, were everywhere. We wondered if we were at the right conference.
With our bags finally stowed and suits hanging up, we went to have a look at the convention floor. As the work crews made final preparations on the day before the show began, we found our place among the medical device vendors, integration software people, the well-known telecoms (Sprint, Verizon, Vodafone), and a large selection of other NGOs, many focused on maternal/child health.
The real fun began the next morning. We suited up and manned our booth which may have been missing the thousand-dollar displays of the big telecoms, but we drew plenty of attention. People would walk by slowly, turn their heads and many would finally ask… “So what does Trek Medics do?”
“Improve Emergency Medical Care Anywhere.” And we would continue on discussing our ideas, our progress and our plans. As is often the case, whether they were interested or not, people were impressed – everyone seems to relate to things going wrong. There’s always scrutiny, and rightly so, as what we’re proposing doesn’t always seem feasible at first blush, but we have plenty of answers at the ready to meet questions about driver training, system financing and potential technology miscues. The fact of the matter is we’re simply looking to improve the systems that already exist. “If you want to find out how these systems work, go down to the hospital and ask the folks in the waiting room, ‘How did you get here’ – that’s where our systems starts.” Needless to say, many business cards were exchanged and Jason and I have both been following up with representatives of the business, tech and NGO fields.
The business day ended with a few hors d’oeuvres provided by the conference hosts – so we humbled ourselves before their generosity and dug in. Jason and I knew that each conversation was another step on the way, so we’d talk to anyone who was willing to listen. You never know when that one person will turn into a vital, full-time partner, or just a small part of a greater network that allows us to complete the mission we’ve committed to.
So the work continues and there is always tons to be done. Every little contribution from each person involved, at whatever level, becomes part of our effort to deliver vital medical care to people who don’t have it. Solutions are really possible and every day we are getting closer to making a major impact.
I look forward to seeing many of you at our after-holiday bash, but until then, Merry Christmas, happy holidays and Happy New Year.
NYC, Dec. 2013