Maya Health Network Tackles Disease Reporting in Developing Nations
After years of working in the public health sector, Will Chapman and Sumi Paranjape were frustrated with how governments were dealing with disease reporting in developing countries. Chapman said,
“What we saw were stovepipe solutions that were expensive and unsustainable.”
So, they came up with an innovative way to bridge the gap between clinicians and population-based insights for patient care: startup Maya Health Network.
A Mobile Health App
On one level, Maya is an app that doctors can use to communicate with each other (a growing trend in the developing world) and that helps them keep track of patients using a basic form of electronic medical record-keeping stored in the cloud. In the developing world, record-keeping can be very fractured. Having one consolidated, easy-to-access medical record is key to ensuring that patients receive consistent quality care and avoid harmful situations like taking drugs that interact negatively with each other.
On another level, the app collects data on a broad scale that can then be used to help inform other stakeholders in the healthcare market — much like how a social network functions. Of his startup’s revenue model, Chapman explained,
“Facebook doesn’t make money off directly from you because you don’t pay for it. What it’s making money off of is that data that it can capture from your interactions with the system. In theory, [Maya Health Network] would be the same. As doctors interact or hospitals interact with the system, you start to see in the data, what they’re doing from day to day, and then you can work with companies. Reaching the right doctors with their products.”
Why an app? Because many doctors in developing countries use mobile phones to communicate with each other. “We were trying to create new streams of health data in the developing world,” he says. “We didn’t think that was going to be possible unless we could create a tool that was going to be compelling for doctors to use.”
Challenges in the Developing World
Despite catering to its users, getting Maya off the ground hasn’t always been easy. For starters, many of the company’s users are based in India.
“It’s always a challenge to work internationally. Technology is helpful, but time differences still get in the way,” says Paranjape of innovating in a developing country. “India is a very innovative place to begin with. You can have good ideas anywhere. The challenge is to find the ideas that best fit. One of the problems that we’ve seen has actually been that so many people come in and try to apply a Western solution to another geographical area. Cultural, practical, technical everyday issues need to be taken into account, and users need an app that fits their busy workflow.”
Chapman and Paranjape’s professional backgrounds have helped them market Maya. They travel frequently to meet with would-be clients to sell Maya’s product. One such client is Aniket Joshi, MD, who’s based in Pune, India. Joshi said via WhatsApp message that he appreciated how “their aim was clear and methodical” from the get-go.
He says he appreciates that Maya Health Network’s app was specifically designed for medical professionals and how “it will ensure that the speed of communication will enhance communication between two health care providers… and will help create a cloud-based EMR [electronic medical record] and thus HIS [hospital information system].”
Support to Build Support
Another factor in Maya’s success? Networking with the help of the incubator it’s based out of, 1776, and leveraging the resources available there to solve problems. Although Chapman and Paranjape both have strong public health backgrounds, the duo didn’t have a tremendous amount of IT background needed to build an app, but they were able to find help with that at 1776.
“There are so many resources online and through 1776 that we leveraged to develop and test the app,” says Paranjape.
Chapman says he values the community that an organization like 1776 provides fellow entrepreneurs. “There’s always another company that’s worked through the challenge that you’re encountering, or is facing the same challenge, or knows somebody that’s tackled this problem that you’re facing right now. That for me, has been the biggest benefit to being part of that community,” Chapman says. “We’ve met tons of great people who have started or are trying to start companies who are willing to help and share their experiences.”
Maya Health Network is indicative of the growing trend of reporting disease in developing countries via mobile apps and storing that information in the cloud. Understanding local context — which Parajape and Chapman emphasize — is critically important for startups looking to becoming profitable and effective in other countries.