Nov 16, 2020
By the Philips Foundation team
Ashoka and the Philips Foundation are working together in a multi-year program to accelerate access to healthcare worldwide by linking social entrepreneurship with industry skills. By connecting leading social entrepreneurs with experts in their field, we aim to accelerate their mission to provide access to care for disadvantaged communities.

In June, we were able to connect Prabhakar Rajasekar, an enterprise architect at Philips, to social entrepreneur Joost van Engen and his social enterprise Healthy Entrepreneurs. Healthy Entrepreneurs focuses on providing last-mile primary care solutions for remote communities, and tirelessly explores how this can be cheaper, more effective and more sustainable.

 

In this interview, Prabhakar shares his insight while working closely with Healthy Entrepreneurs, on how understanding the business context and choose the right technology is fundamental to making a difference in providing access to healthcare solutions in Kenya and Uganda.

 

How did you get involved in this project?

 

“In June, the Philips Foundation, in association with Ashoka, reached out to the Philips community to support a leading social entrepreneur in the field of accelerating healthcare access, but with a particular focus on responding to the consequences and challenges around COVID-19. Out of 350 applications, the Philips foundation chose 17 volunteers based on expertise, motivation and geographical location to support various projects. 

Innovation does not always need to be complex and time-consuming. Sometimes a simple innovation can make a huge difference

I was happy to be one of them. The enterprise I was matched with Healthy Entrepreneurs, a Netherlands based NGO working in Africa – primarily Kenya and Uganda. I was glad to support voluntarily. My manager told me that this should be seen as an opportunity for all parties involved, bringing in my expertise to help scale the impact of Healthy Entrepreneurs and so help increase access to healthcare for the underserved.”

 

After you were chosen, what happened next?

 

“Ashoka and the Philips Foundation set up an initial introductory call and explained the way of working between Philips and Healthy Entrepreneurs. We exchanged what the mutual benefits for everyone involved could be in the most strategic way. 

 

When I spoke to them in detail, I found out they were looking for a solution to support trained health care response workers in clarifying any queries they may have. The idea was to set up a new contact center system, to be up and running fast with privacy in mind, as it handles medical records of patients. Luckily, during the same time, I was working on a new framing and value prototyping exercise on replacing an existing Philips contact center, and Twilio was one of the contenders. It occurred to me that it would make sense to propose Twilio as a possible solution. 

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Within two weeks, we co-created the solution and went live starting in the first week of August. This is a COVID-19 information helpline for 300 healthcare workers for the entire Kampala operations of Healthy Entrepreneurs.“

 

What are the next steps for the solution?

 

"Since the solution is developed in the cloud and not specific to the Ugandan market, Healthy Entrepreneurs is planning to expand the solution to other countries in Africa, starting with Kenya."

 

What is your take on this voluntary project? 

 

“I have learned a few lessons which I will take with me. For instance, innovation does not always need to be complex and time-consuming. Sometimes a simple innovation can make a huge difference. On a personal level, it was great to work with real users (i.e., patients, doctors and nurses) of healthcare solutions, which I don’t usually do. 

 

Secondly, further privacy and regulation in healthcare does not always have to be complicated. Necessity - in this context, a global crisis - makes everything possible. Decentralization can make it easier, but it is mostly less easy for bigger companies. When creating a solution, complex programming is not always needed. The fundamental understanding of business context and the ability to chose the right technology is more than enough. COVID-19 provides us with a lot of opportunities to make a real impact for the end beneficiaries, where technology is a key enabler in making a difference in healthcare solutions.”

 

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To have a better understanding of the work of Healthy Entrepreneurs, click here.

About Prabhakar Rajasekar
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Prabhakar Rajasekar is a Senior Enterprise Architect at Philips. With over a decade of experience in contact center performance, innovator Prabhakar now evaluates and builds protoypes of emerging technologies such as Conversational AI, Blockchain and Internet of Things in the enterprise landscape.

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