By Richard Silberman, Writer/Researcher, IBM Communications
Out of the devastation of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a new, cloud-based model for delivering quality, sustainable healthcare to destitute populations is rising.
Marie Kenerson, chief collaboration and learning officer at Colleagues In Care (CIC), is leading the drive to virtually connect healthcare professionals from around the globe to collaborate, share best medical practices and develop training programs for healthcare workers in Haiti. It’s a model that not only promises to transform healthcare delivery in Haiti, but it can be replicated anywhere in the world to help populations in need and enable true transformational social change.
“Volunteers go to places like Haiti and they do the best they can and then come home in complete despair because they know that the day they leave there’s still an endless line of patients waiting and people dying,” Kenerson said. “Following the 2010 earthquake, we thought there must be a better way to manage volunteerism and sustain quality medical care on the ground in Haiti.”
Crowdsourced medical care
CIC, a nonprofit dedicated to improving access to quality healthcare in the world’s poorest regions, is collaborating with IBM to create a global collaborative health network using IBM SmartCloud for Social Business.
“Our goal is to build a single network to harness the knowledge, experience and compassion of doctors and healthcare workers from around the globe who want to help the people of Haiti and allow them to contribute in whatever way they can,” Kenerson said.
CIC’s pioneering social collaboration cloud solution supports volunteers who want to travel to Haiti physically and connects top medical minds and institutions virtually to crowdsource medical standards and protocols specifically tailored to Haiti’s destitute circumstances.
“We’re basically taking Western, evidence-based best practices and trying to marry them to the reality on the ground to create best possible practices that take into account Haiti’s limited resources,” said Kenerson, who helped design and manages CIC’s SmartCloud platform.
Right now, CIC is focused on creating best possible practices to combat three of the top killers in Haiti: stroke, hypertension, and pregnancy. CIC is also using cloud to create educational content, including an Emergency Medical Obstetrics certification program to help reduce Haiti’s staggering maternal mortality rate (one in 16 Haitian women die during childbirth, according to Kenerson).
In a country where specialists are almost nonexistent, the CIC cloud is a vital source for medical expertise. “We’re giving healthcare workers in Haiti instant access to learning and reference materials so they can immediately determine how to best care for a patient directly in front of them,” Kenerson said.
For its visionary application of information technology to promote social change and improve healthcare delivery, CIC was recently named a 2013 Computerworld Honors Laureate.
Healthcare in Haiti is just the beginning
While CIC’s current focus is squarely on Haiti, the global health collaboration model can be replicated to improve healthcare to poor and underserved areas anywhere in the world.
“There is no reason that the best possible medical protocols we’re developing for Haiti can’t be customized for Samoa or Nepal or Eritrea or a reservation in Minnesota,” Kenerson said. “Our goal is to prove this model in Haiti, but we know we’re creating something much bigger here.”
For Kenerson, a consultant who has devoted her career to collaborative learning and knowledge-sharing, SmartCloud is a revolutionary breakthrough. “Cloud enables us to harness the power of collective engagement in ways never possible until now,” she said.
Kenerson envisions the CIC model changing the way individuals and organizations collaborate to address any complex systemic social problem. “Because SmartCloud is non-proprietary, it’s easy for any organization to integrate the CIC platform with their other tools and applications,” Kenerson said.
Ultimately, Kenerson believes, the CIC SmartCloud platform will transform the very foundation of how nonprofit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operate and collaborate. Her goal is to teach these organizations how to use the platform to self-organize around a shared purpose and interact, innovate and share knowledge more effectively.
“Too much time, money and resources are wasted as charities with the same purpose and needs constantly reinvent the wheel,” Kenerson said. “By collaborating over the cloud, we can eliminate the waste that’s so rampant across the nonprofit world today and bring together the best ideas and smarter resource allocation to help more people in desperate need.”