Medic Mobile locks $1 million grant to help community health workers in the developing world

Tech nonprofit Medic Mobile has attained $1 million in unrestricted grant funding from the Peery Foundation for apps that help health workers deliver care to people who lack reasonable access to doctors and hospitals.

According to Medic Mobile founder Josh Nesbit, about 10,000 health workers in developing nations use Medic Mobile’s apps today to record data about individuals’ health, and prioritize resources so that those with the most pressing needs get help first.

Medic Mobile also gives health workers task lists and diagnostic information to help them accurately assess and do what they are able to on-the-spot for patients with a health problem.

The San Francisco-based organization designs apps that are lightweight enough to use in the field on $10 Nokia phones and Android devices, which are commonly distributed by NGOs and government health offices to their workers.

But it also designs its apps to be robust enough that they can be used, for free, by any clinic or hospital that needs software to manage their operations, and keep or share accurate, up-to-date patient records.

It distributes its apps via one-click downloads, or on parallel sim cards that click into mobile phones.

Established as a nonprofit in 2011, MedicMobile has raised about $10 million in philanthropic funding to-date, Nesbit said. Like most nonprofits, Medic Mobile is always fundraising.

Typically, the checks it receives are earmarked for specific initiatives that matter to a donor, like bringing technology to workers focused on maternity and neo-natal health issues, or developing analytics that help health workers understand the spread of a vaccine-curable disease like malaria in a particular region.

While $1 million may not sound like a handsome sum to tech startups operating as for-profits, the unrestricted grant from the Peery Foundation to Medic Mobile is noteworthy, because it goes to generally support the company, said Shannon Farley, founder and executive director of Fast Forward, an accelerator for tech nonprofits.

Medic Mobile graduated from Fast Forward in 2014, receiving $20,000 from the accelerator and additional $20,000 from its partner,

Nesbit said that Medic Mobile intends to use the new grant money from the Peery Foundation for hiring and product development.

“We will heavily pursue analytics as a way to help the manager who needs to decide which village to visit today, or a way to help health workers figure out what exactly is going on, like is a child malnourished or does he or she have malaria,” Nesbit said.

He also said the company is developing “toolkits” that will help an individual worker, clinic or health office start using its technology immediately, on a DIY basis, even where they don’t have good web or cellular access.