This company is combining video calls with pop-up clinics to help more people get the care they need

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • The use of telemedicine has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Start-up Carbon Health is working to make it accessible to underserved communities.
  • Its founder says it has reduced costs by using technology to improve efficiency.
  • His company uses pop-up clinics to deliver treatments and COVID-19 tests; patients can book appointments using a smartphone app.

Will the doctor see you now? In the era of COVID-19, this is no mere academic question – it could be a matter of life and death. But for some, getting to see a doctor has become harder during the pandemic.

As pressure mounts on health services, people who were already struggling to get medical help are at risk of being left behind. Two-fifths of countries have fewer than 10 doctors per 10,000 people, and even in the United States 27.5 million people have no health insurance.

Not only are surgeries and clinics restricting walk-in access for patients as part of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, but many countries were already facing a shortage of qualified doctors even before the pandemic struck.

In Europe, one in three doctors is aged over 55, prompting the World Health Organization to call for an increase in the number of trainee doctors, while the US will face a shortfall of 139,000 physicians by 2033 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Meanwhile, in response to the pandemic the use of telemedicine – patient/doctor consultations over video links – has surged. In just one month at the start of the crisis, the biggest health provider in the US recorded a 78% drop in in-person visits but a 10,800% increase in video appointments.

It’s a trend that played out elsewhere too. In the UK, for example, “telemedicine before COVID-19 was almost nonexistent,” Tipu Aziz, professor of neurosurgery at Oxford University told Science Magazine. “During the pandemic, in-person consultations dropped by 90% or more, with virtual visits at least partially filling the gap.”

Improving access

But, as it expands, some of the limitations of telemedicine are being exposed. In many places, there are still not enough clinics to allow everyone who needs physical treatment to receive it. And cost is a barrier, which still stops the least well off from receiving care.

Tech start-up Carbon Health – which features on the World Economic Forum’s innovation crowdsourcing platform, UpLink – is working to solve some of these issues and improve access to healthcare for underserved communities.

One of Carbon Health’s pop-up COVID-19 clinics.
One of Carbon Health’s pop-up COVID-19 clinics. Image: Carbon Health

As well as using pop-up clinics which take treatment to hard-to-reach sections of society, Carbon Health provides virtual care, bookable through a smartphone app, without costly membership fees. Patients simply pay for the treatment they receive.

Mobile and pop-up clinics have been particularly effective in delivering COVID-19 testing with more than 100,000 people tested so far by Carbon Health. Follow-up tele-consultations mean patients whose symptoms are not severe can have the reassurance of access to clinicians.

Healthcare ‘deserts’

Now Carbon Health, which recently completed a $100 million funding round, wants to roll out this hybrid model across the US. As part of this, it’s planning to open 1,500 new clinics to provide in-person treatment over the next five years.

“One quarter of counties in the United States, even in places like Los Angeles, are health care deserts where it’s almost impossible to access care at all,” Carbon Health co-founder and CEO Eren Bali told Yahoo Finance.

“So during the pandemic, we developed a new model where, when there’s not enough density for a full-size clinic, we put a pop-up location where the nursing staff are available in person, but the doctor is available over a video.”

Bali says the key to his low-cost model is cutting out the inefficiencies in traditional medicine. For example, Carbon Health uses artificial intelligence to estimate the length of each appointment to allow doctors to spend more time with patients.

“We have created something patients love,” he tells the World Economic Forum. “It is extremely high quality but it’s something that the average person can easily afford in the United States.”

How UpLink is helping to find innovations to solve challenges like this

UpLink is a digital platform to crowdsource innovations in an effort to address the world’s most pressing challenges.

It is an open platform designed to engage anyone who wants to offer a contribution for the global public good. The core objective is to link up the best innovators to networks of decision-makers, who can implement the change needed for the next decade. As a global platform, UpLink serves to aggregate and guide ideas and impactful activities, and make connections to scale-up impact.https://www.weforum.org/videos/uplink

Hosted by the World Economic Forum, UpLink is being designed and developed in collaboration with Salesforce, Deloitte and LinkedIn.

The power of partnerships

Healthcare is changing as patients increasingly expect care to be provided where they need it, and the pandemic has accelerated that need. “I urge all governments to look for partnerships with technology companies to help increase healthcare access,” Bali adds.

Percentage of patient appointments conducted via telemedicine before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic as of April, 2020
Telemedicine has risen dramatically after COVID-19. Image: Statista

Telemedicine providers in the US need to navigate what CNBC describes as “a complex patchwork of state and federal laws.” But a survey of healthcare professionals in the country found they expect up to a fifth of all appointments to be by telemedicine when the pandemic is over.

Following its expansion during the pandemic, the American Telemedicine Association wants the law changed to make it permanently available to all.

To learn more about Carbon Health and other companies working to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, visit the UpLink platform.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

6 ways countries can prepare for the next infectious disease pandemic

Moves to create a Kosovo army have ‘deteriorated relations’ with Serbia: UN peacekeeping chief

Smart city experts should be looking to emerging markets. Here’s why

3 unexpected consequences of the US-China trade war

China and China-EU Relations in the New Era

Beyond ‘business as usual’. Addressing the climate change crisis

Eurozone at risk of home-made deflation and recession

We need to give voice to ‘We the Peoples’, says UN chief

With Libyans now ‘fighting the wars of others’ inside their own country, UN envoy urges Security Council action to end violence

German stock market is not affected by the Greek debt revolution while Athens is running out of time

Coronavirus: EU guidance for a safe return to the workplace

5 things COVID-19 has taught us about inequality

Pharmaceuticals: Commission refines intellectual property rules

All States have ‘primary responsibility’ to protect against hate attacks

How the ‘California effect’ could shape a global approach to ethical AI

South Korea: A cherished partner for the EU

Where is heading Putin’s Russia?

New Mozambique storm rips off roofs, brings lashing rain as aid response kicks in

UN refugee agency presses States to aid 49 refugees stranded on Mediterranean

Young translators at EU schools – Commission opens registration for 2020 translation contest

Negotiated two-State solution still ‘the only option’ for Palestine: Guterres

UN political chief calls for dialogue to ease tensions in Venezuela; Security Council divided over path to end crisis

State aid: Commission approves €1.2 billion French “Fonds de solidarité” scheme for small enterprises in temporary financial difficulties due to coronavirus outbreak

These are the top 10 global causes of death – but two diseases are in decline

Brazilian health: right or privilege?

Why the minutes and the months matter most to young people during the COVID-19 crisis

Stop cooperation with and funding to the Libyan coastguard, MEPs ask

Statement by the European Commission following the extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee

Why Eurozone urgently needs the ECB to print and distribute at least €500 billion

The remote doctor in the 21st century

Over 820 million people suffering from hunger; new UN report reveals stubborn realities of ‘immense’ global challenge

“France will be there, it will always be there!”, French President Hollande says in a rather disorganised speech; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

What just happened? 5 themes from the COP24 climate talks in Poland

More bank bailouts at taxpayers’ expenses

EP wants data protection guaranteed before allowing fingerprint exchange with UK

Business growth is key to post-pandemic recovery

A new paradigm for collaboration: mission-based ecosystems

Africa is ‘on the rise’, says UN chief Guterres, urging collaboration for better future

MEPs urge UK to break current deadlock

Gender equality and medicine in the 21st century: an equity unachieved

Commission supports Member States in tackling coronavirus hotspots with offer of four million additional doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine to be delivered this month

These 4 companies are turning food waste into cosmetics, clothing and more

Ahead of State of the Union the European Youth Forum highlights lack of action on youth employment

More international support needed to curb deadly measles outbreak in DR Congo

White Coat, Stained red

Gas pipeline in the European Union. (Copyright: EU, 2012 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Ferenc Isza)

EU Investment Bank approves € 1.5bn loan for Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)

COVID-19 has accelerated India’s digital reset

Commission celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Jean Monnet Activities promoting European studies worldwide

Meet the Seed Warrior: the man on a mission to rescue India’s rice diversity

UN rights chief ‘extremely concerned’ over deadly crackdown on protesters in Iran

Amid COVID-19 constraints, UN women’s commission meets to push gender equality forward

COVID-19, higher education and the impact on society: what we know so far and what could happen

As rural communities age, their public transport is shrinking. It’s time to fix this

Why the future of food must be blue as well as green

The digital revolution will transform the steel industry

ILO: Unemployment to increase by 8.1 million in 2013-2014

Central Mali: Top UN genocide prevention official sounds alarm over recent ethnically-targeted killings

Eco-anxiety during the Pandemic

GSMA Mobile 360 – Africa on 16-18 July 2019, in association with The European Sting

Destroying nuclear waste to create clean energy? It can be done

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s