Healthcare Innovators Look Outside U.S. for the Next Big Thing

What do a chain of diabetes management clinics in Mexico, a scratch off code to reduce drug counterfeiting in developing countries and a company brokering loans to family members of patients in need of surgery in India have in common?

They are three of the most promising world healthcare innovators of the year, as selected by the International Partnership for Innovative Healthcare Delivery.

IPIHD was formed in 2011 by the World Economic Forum, McKinsey & Co. and Duke Medicine to identify healthcare innovations outside the U.S. and help them scale their models for maximum impact. Today, the IPIHD network includes more than 40 innovations, whose leaders receive coaching on scaling their organizations, as well as introductions to potential partners and investors or donors.

On April 6, 30 of the innovators presented their business plans to peers and senior health leaders at the IPIHD Forum in National Harbor, Md. The following day, the top three innovators — Sproxil, Arogya Finance and North Star Alliance — spoke to a panel of potential investors, including Deutsche Bank, Khosla Ventures, International Finance Corp. and Imprint Capital.

Sproxil CFO Alden Zecha hopes to expand the use of his company's product in other countries through its involvement with IPIHD. Sproxil has developed a scratch-off code for patients after they purchase medication. The buyer texts the code to a number, and a text message confirming the medication is not counterfeit is sent back to the buyer. In countries such as Nigeria and India where counterfeiting is rampant, the codes give consumers confidence that they are receiving effective medication, and give drug manufacturers an upper hand to combating counterfeiters. The scratch-off codes are intended to "influence consumer behavior," creating consumer expectation for drug verification, which will hopefully reduce the number of counterfeit drugs on the market, and help improve the delayed care that occurs when patients purchase ineffective medications.

For innovators selected to participate in IPIHD, the incubator's guidance and introductions are extremely valuable to growing their organizations, says Javier Lozano, co-founder and CEO of Clinicas del Azúcar, a chain of retail diabetes clinics in indigenous areas of Mexico. The clinics help patients manage their diabetes, providing access to physicians, nutritionists and testing for $200 per year — much less than the cost of the same services by private healthcare providers in Mexico, which many of Clinicas' patients are unable to afford.

Clinicas currently operates two clinics but plans to open five more this year. Eventually Mr. Lozano says he hopes to grow Clinicas to 200 clinics throughout Mexico and Latin America.

"We believe every Mexican has to have access to specialized diabetes care," says Mr. Lozano, who founded the clinic after his mother struggled to find affordable access to care for her diabetes. Clinicas is the first diabetes-specific clinic in Mexico, where more than 14 million people are diagnosed with the condition.

The model is one several U.S.-based healthcare organizations have showed interest in, and IPIHD is working to connect Mr. Lozano and Clinicas to leaders here who could adapt the model to tackle diabetes care access issues in this country.

Reverse innovation, or taking innovations from developing nations and replicating them in the U.S. and other developed nations, is yet another aim of the IPIHD.
 
"Many of the most promising innovations in healthcare delivery are emerging in developing countries. This makes sense because necessity is the mother of invention," says Andréa Taylor, research program manager for IPIHD. "For the U.S., we are looking at how to apply new workforce models, leverage existing technology in new ways, and design community care that reduces expensive hospital visits. There is a lot that we can learn and apply by looking to countries where hard-to-reach patients are half the population, and where complex care is provided at a fraction of the cost because there is no other possibility."

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