It’s not small enough.
That’s what Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Prize-winning economist who proliferated the concept of microcredits, will tell you about most diagnostic medical devices. He recalls arguing with now-Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) CEO Omar Ishrak as they worked together to create a smaller ultrasound device for rural areas in Bangladesh. Ishrak brought back a tablet-sized product and Yunus said it was too small.
“Entire diagnostic tools could become mobile-phone based,” said Yunus, who was at this week’s World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C. “The mobile phone could become the central device. The rest become apps to download.”
Medical device companies and healthcare organizations look hungrily at the developing world and people like Yunus understand the texture of those nations. Yunus, who at the World Health Care Congress was on panels with the likes of Ishrak and former presidential healthcare adviser Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, made the point that many of the world’s patients mean profit. A large number of healthcare consumers have the money to spend on pacemakers and other medical devices, they told the Congress’ audience of hospitals and insurance companies. However, these patients just don’t have the awareness or access to trained professionals or the right devices.
Yunus also said that most medical device companies are too hospital-centric and as a result are making big, bulky devices that aren’t meant for a more mobile, telemedicine-ready type of world. The future is healthcare mobile apps.
“This is a matter of creativity,” Yunus said. “And we have unlimited creativity.”