In kudos to the massive corporation of Google, they offer a lot of free advertising for Charities to get much needed funds; up to $10,000 a month. There are limits understandably; max cpc of $2 for each keyword and on search network only. But if the time is invested, that’s a fantastic opportunity for worthwhile causes.
This opportunity came up through my network when I had an engaging conversation with the enigmatic Huw Jones of Virtual Doctors, who had a desperately sad story to share. No-one can quite tell it like Huw, but I shall try. Back in the 90’s, he worked as a safari guide in the remote Zambian bush and came across some blood in the road. Suspecting an animal attack he followed the trail until he found a man cycling on a bike, with a heavily pregnant woman sitting on the handlebars in obvious distress. Quickly he got them into his Land Rover and sped towards to the nearest hospital to get the urgent medical help they needed.
Now from where I type, it’s 6 miles away at most to my nearest hospital with an accident and emergency department. And no doubt an ambulance could get here and back faster than I could ride a bike that journey down the Old Shoreham Road. This poor man had taken his wife to the health centre near his village, but there were no doctors there to help. There was no ambulance or support, so they started out on their bike to the hospital 80 kilometres away, despite the blazing sun and long distance. What choice did they have?
Statistics in Zambia will tell you that 60% of the population live in rural areas, and the overall country death rate is 17% compared to the UK’s 8%. The 2007 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey provides some unpleasant reading in that data collection periods of 1998-2002 and 2002-2007, the number of deaths per 1000 live birth’s were 95 and 70 respectively. What chance did they have?
From the three people that set off on that bike on that fateful journey, only one survived. The mother and newborn were a statistic before they made the hospital, the jeep witnessing the heartbreak of loss, the doctors that could have helped blissfully unaware of the loss. To the grieving husband and the British Safari Guide, percentages and numbers meant nothing – this was a terrible loss of life and could have been saved with the right help.
That memory would live on and consume Huw, and the overwhelming feeling of helpless and desire to change things still drives him. In recounting the story to doctors all over the world his passion generated a lot of experts willing to help, but facing the problem of location. If he could get the doctors to remotely be available to the local health clinics, then they could help the health workers save lives.
Now back in the early 2000’s while Huw was trying to save lives, I had one of the first ever camera phones released in the UK. I even remember the first real picture I took with it in a London Pizza Hut, mainly as the subject was a notoriously camera-shy beauty who had captured my heart as easily as I captured her image with my thumb. Sadly I was as obsolete as the technology that advanced so quickly, that a solution was soon presented to Huw. Mobile phones spread across Africa, bringing with it the internet and connecting it to the world. Annoyingly it brought an old Australian flame into my contact, but for Huw it finally gave a solution to how to connect the Virtual Doctors and the people that needed them. Which to be fair, is a trade-off I’ll happily accept in self-sacrifice.
The Virtual Doctors system (computer tablets pre-loaded with easy to use and bespoke telemedicine software) enables these rural health workers in Africa to create concise electronic patient files, with patient condition photos. The software allows for speedy input of data and the health worker is able to choose what type of expertise they need, for example paediatrics or infectious diseases. Patient data is sent through the system to several ‘experts’ in the UK. Doctors receive a notification prompting them to login to their Virtual Doctor portal and assess the patient file, which they are able to analyse, form an opinion, based on the patient data and images provided and respond with diagnosis and treatment advice. It sounds simple, as it is. It’s the equivalent of people putting a picture of the injury on social network and asking the world what they should do. Only in this case an actual doctor will respond.
Anyone who hear’s Huw’s story cannot help but feel touched by it and want to help. Most of the EMS team have young babies, so we all can identify with how easy access to Hospitals is a blessing. We also firmly believe in our ethical principles. So I volunteered to be a Digital Champion for the Charity to help with their website and PPC campaign. Please follow the link for more details or to read more about this great charity.