Mile High View

Crisis Breeds Disruptive Technology

China’s “Barefoot Doctors” Inspire Healthcare Reform

Parallels are often drawn between the Great Recession and the Great Depression. While there are many similarities, the United States has experienced other significant economic crises. During these times, disruptive technology speeds up. Ideas become new inventions.

For example, the financial crisis in 1837 was created by over speculation in cotton and land. During the same time, Samuel Morris developed the Morris Code (a way to send sound through wires using dots and dashes). By 1838, Congress allocated $30,000 to stretch a wire from Baltimore to Washington DC. Thus, the telegraph was born.

In 1874, the United States experienced our worst financial disaster in history. When the economy crashed, there was no government bailout. For 30 years, we experienced times like we did in 2008. Businesses failed. Banks went under. Unemployment skyrocketed to 20 percent. Meanwhile, Alexander Graham Bell built the first telephone. The first long distance call was placed in 1877. By 1904, there were over 3 million telephones in the United States. The West and East Coasts were connected in real time.

When the stock market and real estate market crashed in 2008, we entered into the Great Recession. What disruptive technology are we now seeing? Across the United States, traditional business approaches are being transformed or replaced with less expensive, more efficient options. For example, growing healthcare costs are a significant concern. MobiSante, a Seattle based company, developed a mobile ultrasound. Utilizing smart phones, this hand held device can travel anywhere. It allows medical professionals to practice better medicine and reduce costs.

MobiSante’s concept of mid-level professionals providing basic care in less expensive settings was inspired by China’s “Barefoot Doctor” principle. These “Doctors” were China’s response to a failing medical system following the Chinese Revolution. “Barefoot Doctors” were educated by the government with the most basic hygiene and general care knowledge. Placed near rural villages, they provided previously untreated patients care and improved infant mortality rates.

Improving this principle with technology, MobiSante helps medical professionals detect problems early and cut costs.


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