Thursday, 3 September 2015

Crowdfunding improvements in Healthcare

The concept of crowdfunding has really taken off in the last five years thanks to the internet. Globalization and interconnectivity has made it even easier for people to find out about new ideas, products, and projects around the world. It has also made it easier for them to contribute to and support these initiatives through donations. Sites like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe have provided avenues for products and ideas to get funded by fans, allowing projects that may otherwise not have existed because of a lack of funding to take off.

The possibilities have filtered over into other industries as well. In the healthcare industry, the freedom that crowdfunding provides has been transformed into creative ways to deliver healthcare and improve the industry as a whole.

Crowdfunded health startups

Crowdfunding in healthcare gives startups focused on the industry a chance to get the support and resources they need to develop and expand. Many of these companies are using crowdfunding to enable doctors and other medical professionals to give patients that cannot afford the care they need access to that care through the help of donors.

One such example, Crowdfundhealth.org, is run by a non-profit organization called Possible and its goal is to “make healthcare possible in the world’s most impossible places”. With a current focus on Nepal, Possible delivers treatments and safe-births through a network of partners, including Watsi.org and Kangu.org.

Watsi and Kangu are two more examples of organizations that use donor contributions to help patients around the world receive the healthcare that they otherwise are unable to afford. Similar to an adopt-a-child charity, Watsi and Kangu allow contributors to learn about various patients, their stories, and their health conditions. Donors are then able to donate money to help a particular patient get the care they need. The organizations will provide the donor with updates about the patient they are supporting.

Watsi focuses on various treatments in 20 countries, sending 100% of the donations they receive to the patient. They also have a universal fund that donors can contribute to on a recurring basis. Kangu focuses on providing healthcare services to pregnant women in the regions in the world with the highest maternal mortality rates, including Uganda, Nepal, Burundi, and India. Kangu’s main goal is to provide expecting mothers in these countries with access to safe birth practices and care.

Samahope.org is another example of a crowdfunding health startup. Samahope allows people to support the work of specific medical professionals around the world. By donating, contributors are helping doctors continue their work to care for patients in areas like Somaliland, India, Ghana, Uganda, Nepal, the US, and beyond. Each doctor’s specialty helps him or her provide necessary care to patients that would not have the resources required to receive effective help for their conditions.

The idea of crowdfunding opens a whole new world of possibilities for patients requiring care in rural, often impoverished areas of the world. It also provides medical professionals with another source of funding to help them continue providing crucial care.

Supporting healthcare’s tech advancements

Aside from directly supporting patients or healthcare professionals, companies that provide services to the healthcare industry have also tapped into the crowdfunding possibilities.

Approaching the problem from another angle, MedStartr.com offers companies and people with innovations in the healthcare industry an avenue to raise the funds they need to put their innovations into production. These innovators are able to find partners, mentors, and funding through MedStartr, allowing them to develop their ideas into realities.

Another example of health tech crowdfunding is one that’s very close to home. OscarHost recently crowdfunded the development of Alberta lab integrations for the OSCAR EMR through gofundme.com. While we didn’t raise 100% of the money we were looking for to complete the project, we were able to raise enough to justify funding the rest ourselves. We’ve now finished the development of the Alberta Labs feature for OSCAR 12.1 and have also committed the code back to the open-source OSCAR EMR source code which will make it available for public release soon.

The developers of OSCAR EMR are using crowdfunding as well to sustain development for a number of module re-designs and a health registry.

Why is crowdfunding important for healthcare?

Health issues and complications are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States and they often make the lives of people in countries both wealthy and poor exceptionally difficult. Even with today’s technological advancements, it is all too common that those needing life-changing healthcare are unable to afford it. Through the internet and the rise of crowdfunding, more of the people that could greatly benefit from proper healthcare resources have been able to access what they need.

Crowdfunding has provided a new source of means and impacts the healthcare industry on all levels. From those able to contribute to caring for someone that desperately needs it through donations, to those providing the care, to those receiving the care they otherwise would not, to the people developing the innovations in the healthcare industry, the opportunities that crowdfunding creates may be limitless.