Kodi Romero, program manager for Blue Sky Institute at Boise State University and Master in Health Science alumna won first place in the March 2019 Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge (IEC) for the Social, Cultural, and Environmental Impact track and Top Female Entrepreneur for her idea to bring telemedicine to rural workers in Kenya.
The IEC is an annual competition presented by the College of Innovation and Design and the Venture College at Boise State that encourages college students from across Idaho to present their innovative ideas to a panel of 25 judges for a chance to receive a portion of $100,000 in seed funding. This year, nearly 200 teams applied but only 24 teams from seven universities were able to compete in the challenge.
Romero, who graduated from the Master in Health Science program in Dec. 2018, began brainstorming ideas on how to help rural families in Kenya once she had heard about their struggles to receive healthcare in one of her classes. Romero began research and focused on the town of Kakamega, Kenya.
“This rural town of Kenya faces many hardships in receiving healthcare as the nearest clinic is miles and miles away,” said Romero. “Families who need to receive care usually only have two options: they can either travel to the nearest clinic and lose money due to missing days of work, or they can hope their illness clears up on its own and keep working to provide for their families.”
The town of Kakamega currently has very few resources for receiving healthcare, and this is where Romero found her innovative idea. As presented at the IEC, Romero proposes the solution, Simu Daktari. Simu Daktari is a telemedicine solution that connects rural patients with a healthcare provider via video call; thus removing the barrier of travel and providing rural patients with treatment advice. To fulfill this solution, Romero proposes to equip rural community health workers with smartphones, allowing them to connect with healthcare providers. The smartphones will additionally be equipped with an evidence-based software application that will allow monitoring of symptoms and diseases to help patients know when they need to contact a healthcare provider. Surprisingly, almost everyone in Kenya has a regular basic phone and cell reception is even better than the reception we have here in Idaho. By providing smartphones to established community health workers, those living in rural villages will be able to benefit from the advancement of telemedicine the way we have been able to in the states.
As a result of winning first place in the Social, Cultural, and Environmental Impact track, Romero was awarded $10,000 in seed funding for Simu Daktari. She was additionally awarded $2,500 for winning one of the two awards for Top Female Entrepreneur at the IEC.
Now with some initial funding, her idea needed to move forward. Romero plans to use it for start-up costs which include: customizing the software application that patients will have on their smartphones, traveling to Kenya to build partnerships with Kenyan practitioners, and purchasing and equipping rural Kenyans with smartphones.
“I have a passion for health and social impact and with this idea I want to help as many rural Kenyans as I can to receive the care they deserve,” said Romero. “I am especially grateful for my involvement with Blue Sky Institute which has enabled me to connect with experts and experienced professionals. Without their help, I would not have been successful in the challenge.”
Learn more about the IEC.