Healthcare Technology Entrepreneur: Dr. Vikram Kumar
Providing healthcare in developing countries often poses unique challenges: Electricity comes and goes; Internet access is unreliable; and various resources are in limited supply. Addressing these challenges is where Dr. Vikram Sheel Kumar, 30, has found his niche. As co-founder of Dimagi, Vikram leads a team that creates technologies specially customized for the conditions encountered in the developing world. For example, it has co-developed an open-source electronic medical records system in Zambia. Patients have smart cards that contain their medical records. This technology gives healthcare workers access to patients’ information in places where telecommunications are limited and paper records aren’t working. Another innovation is Ca:sh, a mobile electronic medical records system. Outreach workers that visit patients have a handheld device, and the Ca:sh software application on it lets them access patients’ information and enter updates. To learn more about Vikram and Dimagi, check out this week’s Young & Professional Profile.
Vikram Sheel Kumar, MD
New Delhi, India
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
Bachelor of Science in Operations Research
Bachelor of Technology in Textile Technology
MIT Media Lab
About the company
Dimagi designs clinical interfaces, health information systems, and mobile technologies to manage global disease.
Dimagi has a unique approach. We build health systems with patient-level interactions at the core. Each time a patient visits a clinic, we collect information. This influences the actual delivery of health care. To accomplish this, Dimagi’s exceptional technical team designs elegant and intuitive interfaces on handhelds, cellular phones and low-cost mini-computers.
From the patient-level databases, we create aggregate databases. This is for monitoring and evaluation purposes and helps organizations manage their health projects and comply with granter requirements.
To date, our clients have included NGOs, governmental organizations, academic institutions, businesses, and passionate individuals.
We have co-developed a country-wide open source electronic record system with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention for Zambia. The project is called Continuity of Care Program and is being currently used in over 30 clinics in Zambia. One of the central designs to the project is a smart card that patients carry with them to their clinic visits. On the card is a patient’s longitudinal medical record. The objective of the technology is to improve patient care by giving relevant information to providers in a resource-poor setting where it is not practical to assume an “always-on” electronic record system and central database.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
My focus is on the various research development projects we are doing on personalized medicine. One such project is a home-based cancer coordination system we are developing with Boston Medical Center to make it easier for patients and their doctors and nurses to communicate. The core to the system is a visualization tool through which patients can see what happens once their home-health device sends an alert to their providers. Consider the following, Fedex tracks packages and lets consumers see where the packages are. Similarly, we are doing that with health information for patients at home.
Most notable milestones
Our CTO Jon says that he can honestly tell people that he loves what he does!
Also in collaboration with our clients, Dimagi has implemented several groundbreaking healthcare informatics solutions:
A mobile electronic medical record (EMR) system for outreach workers in large communities. The Ca:sh system provides a cost-effective means of providing up-to-date medical information to visiting healthcare workers at the point of care. Media Lab Asia, in collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, is currently field-testing Ca:sh in rural India.
An innovative interactive self-management tool for children with juvenile diabetes. This system has successfully completed a phase one clinical trial and is being enhanced for commercialization in collaboration with a major health care corporation.
A PDA-based system for secure dissemination and deanonymization of HIV test results. Invented by the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, and implemented by Dimagi, this system is currently being field-tested in South Africa.
Continuity of Care for Zambia
A smart card based electronic medical record system commissioned by the Zambian government in association with CDC-Atlanta, currently being built by Dimagi, Satellife and Salar Inc.
What’s the niche?
As a partner recently said, Dimagi has a “demeanor as hungry for interesting work, lacking in ego and capable of quick efficient turn around times.” We are all about technical execution – our work markets itself.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Research and development funding cycles are long.
What’s in store for the future?
Some really smart new MIT hires and a fun NIH contract on home-based coordination of cancer care.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Guiding principle in life
Give of yourself in what you do.
Yardstick of success
Quality of team; quantity of projects.
Goal yet to be achieved
Changing the lives of a million people.
Best practical advice
Know when to drop a lead.
My parents because they give me the only unbiased advice I can get.
Like best about what you do?
Like least about what you do?
The long process to sell our ideas.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Biggest pastime outside of work
Writing, Indian cricket team, my nephew Neel.
Person most interested in meeting?
My great great grandfather. Would love to see how different we’d be.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Richard Branson. I like his style.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I won a couple wooden spoons in golf.
- I bicycle through winter in Boston.
- I write a column for the Times of India.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
- Late night cereal
- Good music
“Arrowsmith” by Sinclair Lewis
Build solid technology that can change that way we interact with our health.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Smart, technical Dimagis who are inspired by important and interesting work.
Interview by Sheena Singh
Introduction by Preeti Aroon
Edited by Valerie Enriquez