The Future of Healthcare is Here, it’s Just Not Equally Distributed. Yet.



Saving Lives at Birth- SLAB

Like most startup founders, we launched Shift Labs because we wanted to change the world. We wanted to change healthcare to be more equitable worldwide, and we wanted advances in tech to transform health for the entirety of the pyramid, not just the top 1%.


DripAssist at MSF

It’s a big goal -- one that only moves forward because of collaborators, a bunch of whom I’m excited to see next week when we go to Washington DC as a Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge finalist for the USAID DevelopmentXChange. The event will be an opportunity to be surrounded by entrepreneurs, clinicians, and researchers who share our passion, people who inspire and motivate us every day. Before Shift Labs, I’d spent the previous couple decades as a professor, working on international development from an academic perspective. Together with my students, we built mobile phone-powered diagnostics, digital job aids for nurses, data collection apps for health workers, even a simplified ultrasound system for midwives. Eventually, inspired by the ambition and creativity of my students, I chose to take those ideas and turn them into products that would have broad impact in the world. I’d been doing the academic innovation thing long enough to recognize that plenty of great ideas stalled on the way to commercialization -- mostly because the business as usual approach couldn’t support innovations that were geared for global health objectives and developing world populations. I thought it could be transformative to take our human centered design approaches directly to healthcare workers around the world eager to provide better care-- and create the business model that would make it all possible. Although we’re working a hard problem, one of the best things about this journey has been working together with small companies, student groups, university researchers and others who are committed to also doing hard things to shift healthcare paradigms. It’s like an army of Davids fighting a Goliath of healthcare status quo.


Haitian Maternity Clinic that uses DripAssist

So next week, in DC, we’ll have the opportunity to share what we’ve learned about product design, manufacturing, regulatory clearances, sales, distribution, clinical studies, and a gazillion other things with fellow innovators, in a convening hosted by a group that has pioneered new ways of supporting global health innovation.

The Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact (CII) at USAID has been at the forefront of helping teams think through to sustainability for their innovations. We first started working with them when we participated in the Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge in 2015. They are a rare group -- balancing the worlds of global health and entrepreneurship to create the roadmap for scale and impact. Many large organizations keep their distance from the daily struggles of small innovators, but CII breaks that mold with a sincere commitment to helping a network of Davids engage and push forward together for change.

You can learn more about their work here.

Come visit us at the DevelopmentXChange

Place your vote for the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge People's Choice Award.


Vote Shift Labs for People's Choice 2017


Beth Kolko

Co-founder & CEO