Maternal Health Task Force

MHTF Blog

Tech4MH: Complementary Global Health Innovations Should Be Marketed, Sold and Shipped Together at Scale

By: Meg Wirth, Founder, Maternova

Maternova is a social enterprise building out a fast track for commercialization of life-saving technologies for maternal, newborn and child health.  Why commercialization?  Isn’t the current trend innovation, invention and ideas?  Read on to find out why.

Compared to a decade ago, or even five years ago, the global focus on maternal health is heartening, promising and long overdue.  A great deal of energy and funding is going into new technologies for maternal health diagnosis and treatment.  Through a non-profit affiliate, Maternova Research, we are researching over 250 technologies, protocols and innovations. It has been amazing to watch the energy and enthusiasm for global health technology take root on college campuses, in labs, in global competitions bolstered by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), foundations and other groups.

However, many great ideas turn out not to be viable for a multitude of reasons: a) no funding for proof of concept b) no funding for clinical trials c) dissolution of the team or d) competition from other innovators. We have begun to notice an inverse relationship between how ‘cool’ a technology looks or sounds and how viable it is in the field.  The focus must be on what works in the field over time.  We believe that all of us need to keep an eye on the horizon for innovations that are still being developed—but in the meantime be transparent about what the best available options are right now. There are still far too many simple, affordable innovations that are completely unknown and inaccessible to health care organizations that need them the most.

Other potentially life-saving ideas may proceed at a healthy pace through all of these potential hurdles and reach a point where they have performed well in a pilot or in a clinical trial. This subset of technologies may even have one or two peer-reviewed studies documenting their efficacy.  But, these innovations too often stall because: a) The inventors do not know how to get the product through the right regulatory hurdles to reach a global market b) The innovators don’t necessarily have the goal or the ability to reach widespread commercialization across multiple continents or c) Most officials in Ministries of Health around the world and private sector institutions have never heard of the technology, and simply can’t demand something that they do not know about.

We believe that innovations need a champion at the commercial stage as well—and that champion should research the best available technologies, ensure that they are marketing across multiple channels, and sold with complementary products.

Those who work on the front lines know that there is a set of key technologies that are needed to ensure that obstetric and neonatal emergencies are managed effectively.  The purchasers who equip health facilities and frontline providers do not typically buy a single product, but rather purchase a set of complementary products.  Imagine a purchaser being able to go to a single trusted source to compare the most appropriate diagnostics for anemia, pre-eclampsia, blood typing, management of hemorrhage, drugs for eclampsia, shock treatment, hydration and resuscitation.  Now imagine if after comparing and reading reviews, the purchaser (whether a Ministry of Health, a humanitarian non-profit or a microfranchise) could purchase and have the products sent together with the protocols immediately, and then provide reviews after six months of use, 1 year of use, and 5 years on.

At Maternova, we are working hard to build an efficient marketplace for maternal health innovations and provide solutions that can change the odds for women. Our end goal is to reduce the amount of time innovations spend stalled or percolating slowly through a fragmented global health system and accelerate their ability to improve maternal health around the world.

Tech4MH is an ongoing guest blog series curated by MHTF Research Assistant Yogeeta Manglani. If you would like to submit a guest blog post for possible inclusion the series, please email Yogeeta at ymm108@mail.harvard.edu.

Categories: Contributor Posts Tech4MH Series

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