The Burlington, Vermont-based startup THINKmd is determined to develop solutions that expand quality healthcare to anyone, anywhere. Their first product, MEDSINC (Medical Evaluation and Diagnostic System for Infants, Newborns and Children), is a point-of-care clinical assessment tool delivered through a mobile phone app. The app provides users, regardless of medical training or not, a series of questions to ask when assessing the patient. The app then determines the severity of the patient’s condition and provide treatment recommendations based on the user’s skill set, as well as on the equipment and supplies available at the user’s location. The patient’s underlying condition may not be determined, but the app recommend the most important therapy to provide. For example, it will not conclusively diagnose a patient with pneumonia, but will determine the severity of respiratory distress and recommend how to address it promptly.
The startup was founded by University of Vermont Professor and Pediatrician Barry Finette and Barry Heath, director of inpatient and critical care at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital. Finette saw a great need for the app, having treated sick children with limited access to medical care in some of the world’s poorest countries. Their primary motivation is to save the lives of children who die for no other reason than the circumstance of where they were born, but the technology could be used in adults, capture public health data, and even in industrialized countries for use by emergency responders.
Many low- and middle-income countries have a severe shortage of medical professionals. On average, there is as little as one doctor for every 20,000 to 100,000 people, and one nurse for every 2,000 to 10,000 people. As a consequence, millions of people die from conditions that are treatable if they had access to basic medical interventions. And most vulnerable are children. In fact, over 6 million children under the age of 5 die worldwide each year. The truly inspirational work by THINKmd and their technology allow any health worker, regardless of skills, to provide basic healthcare to the most vulnerable groups. It can significantly improve health for millions of children worldwide, as well as adults, and reduce mortality, while providing a powerful tool that can help gather data to build a better healthcare system.
It is important to emphasize that this technology is not an excuse to not invest in health in low-income countries, improve doctor-to-patient ratios, or develop policies that help build a better system and increase access to basic healthcare to all. But the harsh reality for many people in the world is that it will be a long time before a doctor, and especially a pediatrician, is available. MEDSINC is here now, and it can help save lives now.