Emergency Responder Care and EMR for Panama's Indigenous Ngobes

Emergency Responder Care and EMR for Panama's Indigenous Ngobes

Multiple, PanamaScottsdale, United States
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We deliver a solar-powered system for phone and internet service in rural locations. In conjunction, we offer software to maximize the efficacy of this technology with microloans and emergency medical records for smart phones. As a result, aid organizations have a suite of effective tools for alleviating poverty and offering health, economic, and educational opportunity to regions they serve.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We have no way of communicating with the population we serve in the case of emergency. By bringing phone and internet access to the region we can overcome this and provide other significant benefits as well.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

With a solar panel, cellular repeater, batteries, charging strip, and a smart phone, we can bring internet and phone access to remote areas in Panama that The Floating Doctors serve. As a result, not only will the Indigenous Ngobes living there have increased connectivity, but we will be able to treat and respond to medical emergencies that we currently have no manner of being notified of.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our overall vision is a world with access to information and communications as well as all the benefits that come with those capabilities. To begin, we wish to bring basic mobile phone and internet service to rural Panama to provide emergency responder medical care. This can then be expanded to deliver microloans via phone, like Kiva Zip, to increase their economic and, therefore, educational opportunity as well. Finally, we can use this technology to collect solid EMRs that will have incredible value for research in tropical medicine.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

To date, we have used one BGAN unit to provide phone service to about 3,000 individuals in remote Panama. We have also started receiving investment and attention from media and Venture Capitalist for our novel method.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

6 months: 10 Broadband Global Access Network Units Installed, serving 30,000 Ngobe Panamaians. 1 year: Microloan system connected to initial 10 units. 20 More units being installed in Haiti and Nicaragua. Monthly revenue from microloans: $10,000 2 Years: 30 Units with microloans, 30 more units installed with partnering organizations. Monthly revenue from microloans and consulting: $25,000

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In the region of Panama where we work no one else provides any service like this whatsoever. More broadly, organizations like Doctors without Borders, Inveneo, and Kiva provide components of our more integrated system. We see organizations such as this as peers that we can work with to more quickly serve those in need.

Founding Story

I returned from The Peace Corps in Panama in May 2012. Over the next few months I learned about all the incredible possibilities that mobile technology made possible. Quickly, it became evident that before phone applications could help, a sustainable telecom solutions would have to be implemented in the area. As a result, I started designing what became the Broadband Global Access Network Unit.
Organization Name

00-O Benefit Corporation

About You
About You
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Explain what the "innovation" is about, e.g., is it the idea and/or the model you use to accomplish the idea, or your understanding of the target population, etc.?

Our Broadband Global Access Network is a solar-powered system connected to batteries, a cellular repeater, a charging strip, and light. Once we provide phone access to these remote locations on the Kusapin Peninsula in Panama, we can use the GPS from the smartphones we provide to see where an emergency is taking place. As we dispatch a medical professional to the location, a person can provide first-aid guidance to the caller. Additionally, the phones will allow for more efficient communication, planning, and follow-up care for patients. All of the other benefits that connection to the internet provides will be included as well. Finally, we will be able to collect data in real-time that can be shared with health workers throughout the world from remote regions. We will lease these units to non and for-profit organizations, offering a suite of services suitable to each organization's needs. This revenue will allow us to implement microloans and EMR systems via phone apps to these communities. We will have the ability to collect data and distribute microloans to people and organizations throughout the world in short fashion.

Describe how your innovation model is distinct from any other organization in your field?

Our ability to supply internet access to such a remote region and The Floating Doctors boat-based care system makes it possible to respond and treat people in very inaccessible locations. We also intend to combine multiple parts from several sectors into a hybrid model that combines hard infrastructure, phone app design, microloans, and EMR. In this age of technology, why should we have to pick one when the ease of implementing all as a cohesive whole only makes each component part more effective?

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

The Floating Doctors and I have worked in this region of Panama for over three years. We have official approval from tribal leadership and community support for this project. Additionally, Digicel, a major telecom company in Panama, has already agreed to help support and advise the project. Alex Blum also speaks the indigenous language. Our knowledge of the area also allows us to help facilitate the organization of several artisan and food businesses that are already in existence in the region. By connecting these groups their success will increase significantly.

How do you make sure you constantly innovate in light of (potential) external challenges, or your growth plan?

Our extensive experience working in developing nations has taught us that nothing goes according to plan. By working collaboratively with the local leadership that we have grown our relationships with over several years, we are confident that we can overcome and challenges that may arise.

Organization Country

, AZ, Scottsdale, Maricopa County

Business Model
The systemic challenge you are trying to overcome (select one)

Bring accessible healthcare to communities in emerging markets

Health area (target market) where the need is [select only one]

Primary healthcare services

Categories along the health continuum you are covering [select all that apply]

Prevention, Detection, Intervention, Follow-up, Long-term care, Social integration.

Stage that best applies to your solution [select only one]

Start-up and growth (pilot is successful and starting to expand)

Core strategies of your business model [select all that apply]

Approaches to behavioral change at the individual level, Patient-centered design, Redesign of the public healthcare system for more efficiency (in terms of processes, structure etc.), New/redefined roles for healthcare service provision, New approaches to distribution of health products and services, Unconventional partnerships (between traditional healthcare players and players outside healthcare).

If other, specify here:
Most relevant tools you are using to implement the strategies outlined above [select only two]

Technology, Education/training, Community financing.

If other, specify here:
What is your value proposition?

Our innovative system, integrating technology, medical expertise, and financial opportunity makes it possible to deliver access to the basic health, economic, and educational opportunities every human being is entitled to. For little cost, we can deliver a sustainable method of making this a reality. From day one, we can provide emergency medical care for over ten thousand individuals who currently lack it. Furthermore, by working with Peace Corps workers and local leaders that we already know, in addition to our monthly visits for our pre-existing medical work in each of the selected communities, we can maintain and optimize these systems if, and when, unexpected challenges arise.

Who is your customer(s)?

Our customers are other international medical organizations interested in learning how to reproduce a similar system and people interested in offering microloans to individuals with little other opportunity. By deducting a small percentage of the loan for maintaining the system, we can sustainably continue this service for the foreseeable future.

What approaches to you use to reach your customers?

The relationships we have forged with fellow organizations working in similar circumstances has allowed us to develop an understanding and knowledge of their work. They aren't customers so much as friends and colleagues that we hope to share and learn from. Microloan customers could come from pre-existing services we would happily partner with like Kiva Zip or Remitly.

What are your primary activities?

Our primary activities are implementation, training, and optimization of our Broadband Global Access Network System, medical care for coastal communities (80% of the world's population lives within five miles of a coast), and microloan implementation.

What other challenges - individual, organizational, or environmental – are you currently facing or might hinder future success of your business, and how do you plan to overcome those?

The biggest challenge would be education and adoption of this new technology by the local Ngobe people. However, since we have worked in the area for over three years, see each community on a monthly basis already, and speak the indigenous language, we do not foresee this being a big challenge.

Briefly describe your growth strategy going forward

After successful implementation in Panama, we have already held discussions with Watsi.Org to scale our system to the other organizations they partner with. Additionally, since the Floating Doctors already work in Haiti and Nicaragua as well, we could quickly expand to these regions.

What dimensions for growth are you currently targeting for your innovation [select all that apply]

New customer group(s), New regions(s), New market(s)/country(ies).

What makes your business "ready" for growth?

All of the components of our business, mobile technology, Floating Doctors healthcare, and microloans, already exist. By combining them together we can increase their collective impact and grow quickly while helping those in need of these opportunities.

What are your key growth objectives?

Our growth objectives are to be profitable within one year with microloan revenue, expand to consulting for partnering organizations, and be integrating medical data and best practices from organizations throughout the world.

Organization's Country of Operation

, BT, Multiple

Social Impact
What methods for quantification of social impact are you applying (if at all)?

We measure impact by the number of people we put in touch with phone and broadband usage, the number of successful emergency calls, and revenue. In the coming future we will also measure the number of EMR profiles we log and the number of dollars flowing through out phone app for microloans.

Could your solution work in other geographies or regions? If so, where?

Yes, our solutions are designed to adapt to the specific needs of individuals living in remote areas worldwide. Even in Panama, we are using different energy production methods for different locations. Anywhere, even remote parts of the US, that lack access to the benefits of phone and broadband could benefit from our innovation.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Over the next three years we intend to install at least 500 units, connect 500,000 people to phone and internet, deliver microloans for new business ventures, and have at least 5,000 emergency responder cases successfully executed.

Elaborate on your current financing strategy

To begin, we received grant money from Digicel, a telecom company in Panama, and will soon receive money from the Panamanian Government as well. From there, we intend to implement microloan connectivity and deduct a 1% service fee for maintaining the Broadband Access Units. This will likely allow us overhead for expansion. In addition, by partnering with watsi.org, we can offer the same system to their partnering organizations and charge a consulting fee as well as a % of their income from microloans. Our innovative model and the possibility of collecting valuable medical data will also allow us to apply for grants from foundations and offer sponsorship opportunities to private businesses.

Share of revenue generation in total income of organization (in percent)


Direct sales to patients or other beneficiaries (in percent)


Of the possible sources of these sales listed below, check all that apply to your current strategy

Private businesses, Other beneficiaries.

Licensing fees, e.g., for technology/franchise model (in percent)


Of the possible sources of these licensing opportunities listed below, check all that apply to your current strategy

Foundations, NGOs.

Service contract with organizations, e.g., government, NGOs (in percent)


Of the possible sources of the service contracts listed below, check all that apply to your current strategy

Foundations, NGOs, Private businesses, National government.

Explain your revenue generation strategy in more detail

We can charge a 1% service fee for microloans passing through our technology.

We can charge a .5% service for microloans passing through the technology we set-up for partnering organizations. In addition, setting up these systems for partners can be charged as a consulting fee as well.

Share of philanthropy in total income of organization (in percent)


Philanthrophy strategies you are using

Diversified strategy.

Explain your philanthropic approach in more detail

Though we are open to philanthropic donations that can tax-deductible donations to The Floating Doctors, it is not an essential component of our business model.

Expand on your selections; explain how you will sustain funding over the next 1-3 years.

Service fee from microloans. Consulting fee for partnering organizations.

Years in Operation

Operating for less than a year

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Our partner The Floating Doctors' Founder Dr. Benjamin Labrot has been a CNN Hero of The Week and has garnered several other awards and grants. See more at floatingdoctors.com. Additionally, Alex Blum won a competition through The Global Poverty Project to meet Bill Gates (http://www.globalcitizen.org/Content/Content.aspx?id=216a7c43-2e3c-4b43-...) and was named a 2013 Front Line Scholar for TEDMED (tedmed.com).