Imagine you’re in the Caribbean on a Mexican vacation. Out of the blue you get sick, really sick.
You’re rushed to a hospital, but the hospital can’t access your U.S. medical history, nor does it know if your disease has pandemic potential — because medical records are currently kept in paper form and take weeks (or more) to transfer.
The lack of real time access to medical information results in a misdiagnosis, or mistreatment of your condition. Months later the disease has spread across every continent in the world. How did this outbreak go unnoticed?
This example is eerily similar to what actually happened during 2009’s H1N1 influenza pandemic that reached rapid-outbreak levels in Veracruz, Mexico, and is exactly the type of question that Remi Douah, Sirleaf Ahamadu and Emmanuel Douah are answering with their public health intelligence company E-Health Portfolio.
The team aims to systematically change the way public health reporting works, specifically in third world countries. “If a nation isn’t healthy, it cannot function,” says Remi Douah.
How it works
E-Health Portfolio’s patent-pending Web-based software allows doctors and health practitioners to access a vast plethora of medical information in real time. The software has already been set up to be used by all Caribbean countries (eventually Latin America) and not only allows on-the-spot personal reports for improved diagnosis, but also includes a full-scale medical informatics system that can identify potential pandemics like avian influenza (bird flu) and H1N1 (swine flu).
The pandemic identifier, or bio-surveillance, aspect of the E-Health Portfolio software goes above and beyond what the 500-plus different health information systems in the U.S. are capable of. “Most of the countries where these diseases originated were the least equipped to handle them.” he explains. Good bio-surveillance data must include three key factors:
- Global outbreak identifiers
- Efficient, effective data collection
- Mechanisms for prevention
Although the U.S. medical system is more advanced than most third world countries, the richest nation in the world lacks key functionality when it comes to health reporting. These are amongst the primary issues are addressed with E-Health Portfolio’s software:
- Up-to-date medical information is not immediately available outside of your regularly attended medical facilities
- Real-time medical reports are not available to state and local governments, which is particularly important when pandemics occur such as 2009’s swine flu
- The U.S. has over 500 different health information systems that do not share any information due to legal implications
- Beyond blood pressure, temperature and other bio-molecular findings, patients’ social determinants (external environmental effects on health) are not recorded
“I look at what I’m doing as trying to solve public health mysteries. Maybe the answers to HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or cancer are locked away in one of these third-world paper files.”
How it Started
Remi Douah is originally from the Ivory Coast. He traveled to the U.S. as a Fulbright Scholar in 1989 to pursue a Master in American Studies at Michigan State University and then a Doctorate in Design at the University of Minnesota. A civil war in 1994 prevented him from returning back to his home country, so in 2008 Remi Douah and his partners, Ahamadu Sirleaf and Emmanuel Douah, founded E-Health Portfolio, a privately owned Minnesota-based health informatics company whose mission was to become the premier public health solution provider of medical intelligence in emerging nations.
Then later in 2008, with the support of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, E-Health Portfolio worked with the Caribbean Institute of Nephrology to create the first Web-based Caribbean Renal Registry — a public health and bio-surveillance tool that allows 37 Caribbean countries to collect secured and reliable Diabetes and Hypertension data. The program has now been operating for 11 months and has empowered doctors to track data, trends and provide top-of-the-line treatment.
On November 6, 2010, E-Health Portfolio successfully completed the installation of its health management system in Jamaica-based Sunshine Dialysis centers. All dialysis centers are now fully automated with online video conferencing and telemedicine capability. These advancements now allow doctors across Kingston, Montego Bay and Mandeville to provide informed, state-of-the-art care.
Overall, Douah and his partners are working to empower health care consumers, health care providers, research institutions and policy makers with accessible, secure, reliable medical data on a real-time basis that will lead to timely, appropriate responses to health, whether it is related to prevention and wellness, or epidemics. “Our goal is to put public health back at the center of health informatics design,” says Remi Douah.