We traveled down a bumpy, dirt road in the rural areas of West Bengal towards a village called Bolpur. Three hours after leaving Kolkata, the car pulled up to an unassuming concrete building. The health care worker who accompanied us for this ride jumped out enthusiastically and immediately spoke into her megaphone. “Not feeling well?” she called out to the village, “Need a quick check up? Come and visit us for the next hour and a half.” Here, in a small village, at an unassuming building, we had found ourselves at an iKure spot camp.
iKure - a Kolkata-based social enterprise dedicated to bringing affordable health care to India’s poorest populations - has created these spot camps as an integral part of their inventive model for a network of health clinics in India’s rural areas. In addition to providing access to doctors and medicine prescriptions, they provide the necessary outreach to tell villagers about where and when the clinics are and how they can access medical consultations and medicine.To understand iKure’s creative approach to bringing health care to those most in need, think about it like a bicycle wheel. At the hub, there is a main clinic that acts as the base for an additional 21, strategically placed spoke clinics: acting as the spokes emanating from the wheel and serving a potential population of 175,000 people. The hub is a traditional clinic with a doctor, paramedical assistant, and two health workers on call. Throughout the week, the medical staff will rotate at fixed times to the spoke clinics, which are located within a 15 mile radius of the hub. Walking into the spoke clinic in Bolpur, we see that, like many other clinics, it consists of basic, one room offices, with maybe a bed, a desk, and a chair. Regardless of the basic nature, patients are diagnosed, prescribed and given medicine, and given care for the affordable and uniform price of 80 Rps. The spot camps, like the ones mentioned earlier, let people know where the nearest spoke clinic is and when it is open.
iKure’s innovation in the delivery of health care to India’s poor does not stop at its hub and spoke clinic model. Through the use of proprietary software, Wireless Health Incident Monitoring System, or WHIMS, iKure is able to collect health information of patients in an efficient and technology-enabled manner. This allows them to utilize Android tablets, armed with the WHIMS platform, and work in areas where internet is scarce – due to low bandwidth – and electricity is erratic at best. This diagnostic tool is used to collect vital patient information for health screenings as well as early detection or monitoring of diseases.
iKure’s model is as innovative as its founder, Sujay Santra. A software developer by training, Sujay conceptualized the iKure’s model after he witnessed the trials and tribulations his own father had in accessing healthcare when he became ill. Through iKure’s hands on approach, Sujay saw the possibility of helping as many people as he could get access to quality healthcare.
For the 2014 India Development Marketplace, Sujay and the rest of the iKure team proposed to expand their grassroots operations to Meghalaya in a public-private partnership with the local government. Although challenges exist, Sujay and the team are not deterred. Although Meghalaya has low internet connectivity, intermittent or little access to grid electricity and little to no accessible health care in the area, they believe they will be able to bring health care through their innovative model, WHIMS technology, partnerships and in identifying and training local, existing healthcare workers such as Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) who currently work in the region.
With rural communities connected by simple dusty and bumpy roads, iKure’s vision is bold. But with rural communities in desperate need for health services, Sujay and his team see the roads as surmountable obstacles, waiting to be paved to accessible, affordable health care.
iKure is one of 20 innovative social organizations that has been short listed as finalists for the 2014 India Development Marketplace, all of whom have proposed incredible projects that truly help the poorest populations in India. Winning organizations have not been selected yet, and an announcement of those selected will be made soon. In spite of which organization is selected, the DM Team wanted to make sure that these innovative stories were told.
Carolyn Marie Florey is the Operations Officer for Innovation Labs and the Development Marketplace at the World Bank Insitute. In addition to telling the amazing stories of social entrepreneurs, she also blogs about Information and Communications Technology (ICT).