Project Everest

Bete keypad health diagnosis design

Emily Armstrong
Emily Armstrong | Jul 28, 2017 | in Health Consulting


The July health team has identified the lack of access to health services and education to have a detrimental impact on the health system of Malawi. Hospital staff members and clinicians have all raised the issues of congestion, some doctors and clinicians seeing up to one hundred and fifty patients a day. An ideation discussion lead to the discovered potential of a Your.MD, a cognitive learning app created for diagnosing western illnesses. It was concluded that if such an application could be implemented and tailored to Malawi as a MedED type application, , Malawit would sufficiently improve the health issues highlighted above. The Your.MD questions were received positively by the clinicians of NAYO and a doctor who examined the app in the interview from the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) (the medical hub of Blantyre). The app would enable education, as the apps diagnosis includes how the illness was contracted and how it may be treated. The ability to distribute the application would also enable a decongestion of patience into the hospitals, or if used by staff members, may decongest the waiting rooms. The health team has identified that the primary buyers and investors of the product will be QECH and clinics.

A majority of the population (85%) rely on agriculture as their primary source of income. The agriculture team in Malawi has the potential to increase income and productivity by 5 -10 times. This will increase the people of Malawi’s ability to invest and buy new technology, such as smart technology. The presence of the energy team in Malawi will also increase the ability for people to access energy. The success of both of these teams will enable revenue and access to the MedED Malawi app. However, the poverty and lack of access is an issue that exists currently and preventing the health team’s potential product from reaching the wider market.

Whilst the application has the potential to eliminate the issues addressed above, there are flaws that I believe may slow the pace of the development, distribution and success of this product. There was little to no evidence of smart technology owned by the hospitals and clinicians. This may hinder these stakeholders from distributing and investing MedED, as they will need to find funding to buy their own smart technology or rely on their staff members to own their own. Another issue that must to be taken into consideration, is that the app requires a lot of initial capital to invest. Due to this hospitals may only be able to afford one device for the app to work. While this may provide an insight for the doctors, realistically this will not significantly impact on the overcrowding problem.


The lack of smart technology is not only an issue in the health care system but in the general populous. Out of 89 people surveyed 63 people said that they had access or owned keypad phones, 70.7% of the market (please see graphs attached below).  It does appear that a legitimate market product should be created for only 30% of the populous. The creation of such complex technology will also slow the pace of the exponential growth. However, there is potential during the beta and prototype phase to create and distribute a product to reach a wider audience to prove concept and broaden access to an end product, a cognitive learning Project Everest MedED platform.

It is from here there I believe another product needs to be created in the interim, or along side a Project Everest MedED application for Blantyre, Malawi. The idea is to create a similar product on a lower scale in the form of a health diagnositic service via a keypad device that involves conversation between the customer and the platform. There are several benefits for its realisation. The first being that the number of primary buyers and investors will significantly increase. This also means a higher distribution rate. This form of technology is lower cost, therefore if Malawians are not receptive to health diagnostic technology there will be less loss in its investment. A keypad designed health program would act as the catalyst towards the end product (MedED, Malawi). The product would have primed the people of Malawi in using health technology, as many stated that they has never used their phones to contact health services (see graphs). The much lower cost of the keypad health diagnosis design will also test the market for the final product, allowing for exponential growth.


The specifics of the product design are yet to be determined. Both voice and text options have been explored with various benefits for each. Additionally using voice commands will provide support for those with a low level of literacy, as the literacy rate in Malawi is 74.8% lower for women. However, developing a text-based product could be more cost efficient. Any feedback on this idea would be greatly appreciated.

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Claire Bushrod Jul 28, 2017

Emily, I love your analysis of the potential of the MedED app. I think its really important to look into the beta testing of the keypad-based app, as many of the members of community we surveyed only had access to keypad phones. I suggest looking into the organisation called Human Network International. They work in many countries, including Malawi, and have a similar service called 3-2-1, which you could research to further develop your idea. In the later stages of development of the MedED app I suggest including a component that looks like the app for HIV/AIDS I posted about. Good job!

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Edan Baker Aug 2, 2017

I love the innovation of these kinds of ideas, but at the same time I'm personally always incredibly weary of apps that try to diagnose. There's a massive danger and huge complexity in trying to diagnose with simple questions. For instance, if someone says they have a fever, headache and stiff neck, going by what would be more common it could just be a minor infection, OR it could be a life threatening case of meningitis. There could then be a massive loss to the business through lawsuits or loss of public respect because of false information (disclaimers could get around that but public safety is still compromised).

I think instead it would be more beneficial to give a health overview with a triage category system that indicates how soon they may need to see a health professional. It can also give advice and education as to what methods of low-risk treatment they can try to alleviate the illness in the meantime and therefore avoid congesting the health system. It runs into a few of the same problems and still has an incredibly high risk factor for causing patients to miss crucial timings for treating a serious illness before deterioration, but it doesn't outright diagnose someone without a proper check. I'm not sure what the most common presentation is to their hospitals but if it's like Australia and it's people going in for very minor problems then their congestion could benefit greatly.

As for who would be using it; I think it would be most beneficial to have either a phone service similar to 3-2-1, or an app/device that could be centrally located in communities.

Reply 2

Soni Lawson Aug 10, 2017

Emily, I think this is a great overview and analysis. I also think it is very important with building that relationship and starting that conversation with the customer via keypad. This would be a good end product to MedEd, however I think that it should have other apps in order to help with that diagnostic process to be more simplified and to be careful of how the app does the diagnostic process and not have false information. I would be interested to see the logistics and hear more about it though.

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