Minnesota is the backdrop for one reason I founded GlobalMed, a company whose mission is to improve the delivery of healthcare through innovation. My dad was a U.S. Army veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, to which he lost much of his hearing. His retirement years in St. Cloud included monthly visits to audiology specialists at the Veterans Health Administration (VA) hospital at Fort Snelling near Minneapolis. Dad would wake up at 5:30 a.m., drive to the VA bus stop in St. Cloud, and ride two hours to his appointment. He’d wait to see his audiologist. Once seen, he’d wait around the rest of the day for his 85-mile bus ride north. It was usually a 13-hour day.
Mind you, dad lived less than a mile from the most beautiful VA hospital in Minnesota. But it had no audiology specialist. He took an entire day out of his month to fine-tune his hearing, so he could communicate with his grandkids. That bothered me.
After the dotcom bubble burst around 2001, I thought about the potential opportunities within medicine, and about my dad trudging halfway across Minnesota for routine care. I also looked at our country’s outdated healthcare system and decided I didn’t want to be stuck in that same system in 20 years. How could my technology experience help provide affordable, available, reliable healthcare?
Remote Arizona became my inspiration. In the Native American reservations spread across the state’s desolate landscape, the need was clear: people required healthcare no matter where they lived, and technology was the way to bring providers to their patients.
The Havasupai Native American tribe lives at the bottom of a canyon within Grand Canyon National Park, with little or no modern technology or electronic communication with the outside world. The only way in or out of the canyon is by pack mule or helicopter—a big problem when someone needs medical attention. But my company has solved that problem with a portable “clinic in a box” that enables Havasupai patients to be seen via telehealth, either at Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff (FMC), or by a specialist located in Phoenix or Tucson. This “clinic in a box” is an example of real-world innovation. Known as the Transportable Exam Station™ (TES), it can be solar-powered with a battery that lasts for up to a day. TES uses 3G, 4G and soon 5G or satellite communications to reach remote providers. It can measure vital signs, aid in primary care, ENT, dermatology, urology, cardiology, behavioral consults and even to help place a PICC line.
This virtual care technology has made healthcare potentially accessible everywhere. With the right equipment, software and connectivity for each healthcare setting, care can be delivered to patients in the most difficult-to-reach spots and the most challenging environments. Innovative healthcare-delivery systems can be a great equalizer. Military service members, veterans, Native Americans, isolated tribes around the globe, oil-rig workers, the President of the United States—may be even you—are all my most important patients. My own life has changed in ways I never anticipated upon moving to Phoenix nearly 30 years ago. I enjoy meeting providers and patients whose stories of struggle often go untold and leaving their lives healthier, more supported and more connected.
There’s space to build something here, physically and temperamentally. The wealth of new graduates, new residents, and new ideas are really an entrepreneur’s dream. We leverage Phoenix’s highly-skilled workforce and ecosystem. And I would be remiss to not mention the stunning natural beauty as a continual source of inspiration, no matter what line of work one is in.
Advice & Best Practices
Cast a wide net. There’s opportunity and inspiration in unexpected places here, so make time to truly explore the greater Phoenix area. Second, take advantage of what’s around us to keep yourself grounded during the difficult times. There’s something healing in the quiet isolation of wild places.