Solving the Jigsaw

The story so far about finding answers to key questions in the quest for building a smart healthcare for a better future at Caerobotics

Dr Ruchi Saxena

Founder, Caerobotics

The name Caerobotics flashed in mind three years back as the ultimate word that explains the most difficult and ambitious project that I want to work for – delivering care through aerial robotics to the most inaccessible regions of the world. Just coining the name and looking at the logo I designed filled me with immense hopeful energy and a sense of fulfilling responsibility. How am I going to do it was the definite next question.

Travelling in and out of Nepal and watching the communities like in pockets over high mountains that didn’t have easy transport was a revelation to me that the world is not as simple as I had experienced throughout my growing up years in Mumbai where accessibility to trustworthy healthcare was not even a topic of anxiety. It was right there under our noses, just walking distances from our homes. Ambulances were aplenty and doctors were great. Hospitals were accommodating and services were amazing. So to imagine that a child would die just because it took so long for him to reach the ‘nearest’ hospital or an old man who would rather rest would walk for eight hours to get his prescription refill was so difficult for me. And it won’t be an exaggeration if we know that are many such regions all over the world with similar and even worse problems.

Then came the back to back stories of earthquakes in Nepal and Pakistan and the floods in Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir and it brought stories after stories of destruction caused by sheer unpreparedness to nature’s wrath. I am mentioning unpreparedness as one key reason because we have seen calamities that are similar or worse but with a much lesser impact just because there was a foresight and systems were in place to respond and reduce damages.

Obviously blaming hardly solves a problem. What am I doing and what can I do about it? I dived into a detailed research on studying risks, disasters, preparedness, designing safe systems, streamlining processes, applying lean six sigma and building resilience. I studied existing quality standards laid out for organisations in general and healthcare in particular. We all know that some countries have great systems, but what goes into the making of great systems and how do we bring those closer to our homes was something I needed to understand. How can we apply those systems in our countries, within the resource constraints that we have, by virtue of efficient designs? This was something that I needed to understand next. I learned about systems thinking, design thinking, human-centred designs and applying these ideas to solving problems of global health.

I was applying these concepts to practice in the various consultancy projects that I took up. I came on board of a couple of organisations that were contracted to solve similar such problems. One such solution that we developed was remote health monitoring kit to be used in the far off districts where doctors don’t prefer to be stationed. Even this solution turned out to be ineffective, because even if we did the monitoring and gave the advice online, how would the prescribed treatment regimen reach the patients. If we have many days at hand, yes couriers are an answer, but what about emergencies? What about rough weathers and tough terrains? What about locations with no internet or no roads? What about that last mile gap?

Looking at the applications of these concepts, one solution that kept striking my conscience was using machines to get to the places where regular transport is a challenge. Soon there were news flashes of a drone company delivering healthcare using drones, a very early start up then. I approached them and asked them if they would be interested in helping India and Nepal. The reply came was that there are other countries in waiting list and India and Nepal is not presently on their list. I discussed this with many people and although the idea was great, everyone spelled out only the difficulties and impossibilities of such a project. I held on to my hopes and it took a few more months of patience to allow the technology to mature and the experiments to prove their successes when the world will be talking about it. There were research, design and application reports from various corners of the world. I was still watching the progress from the side lines and discussing my dreams and plans with the people I met. There were some who got so excited that they became my unofficial project partners. However here were many who laughed at my dreaminess and just explained to me very patiently that it is not your cup of tea, keep out of it. Adamant me, I got a company registered with the name Caerobotics.

The day that happened, everything started falling in place, almost magically. Somehow people started appearing in my life, courses on aerial robotics started flashing, I happened to meet key people who were thinking on similar lines, some more people who took my ideas very seriously and offered their partnerships and sponsorships, governments who would be happy to adopt this concept, organisations who would provide the technical support, and it all became a big chain of discussions that now cannot be put down.

Moving on with the plans now!