In the Shark Tank: Technologies to Achieve the Triple Aim in Global Health

The “Triple Aim” in domestic health care has been defined as improving outcomes, reducing costs, and enhancing the patient experience and the functioning of the health care system. The “Triple Aim” in global health is comprised of policies, programs, and innovations that save lives, improve global security, and promote economic growth.

From September 25th-27th, the United Nations General Assembly has the opportunity to help achieve this global “Triple Aim” when it considers and adopts worldwide health targets in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The goals are ambitious, and a recent report suggests they will not be met without investing in research and development for new tools and technologies. Decision makers should look toward a recent effort that identified which technologies should be prioritized; the process to do so was – in essence – the global health community’s version of “Shark Tank” – the Innovation Countdown 2030.

What I love about the entrepreneurial show Shark Tank is the intersection of innovation, competition, capitalism, and just plain “Yankee ingenuity.” Ideas come from everywhere – from a family innovation for patching torn window screens to an MIT grad selling “Monkey Mats” for picnics and other purposes.

Similarly, IC2030 uncovered innovations from more than 50 countries around the world and from a range of sectors. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the US Agency for International Development, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, PATH, and other global health stakeholders undertook IC2030 to identify 30 innovations with the greatest capacity to improve health and save lives – on a global scale – by the year 2030. Specifically, the goal was to identify innovations that “experts believe could quicken the pace of progress toward the health targets in the proposed SDGs.”

The year-long IC2030 process involved crowdsourcing innovations from developers, innovators, private-sector leaders, and experts across the globe. Ideas were proffered by people in nearly 50 countries across five platforms: devices; diagnostic testing; drugs and therapeutics; systems and services, including digital health, and vaccines.

More than 60 independent health care professionals and public health experts rated and chose the top 30 innovations from among 500 submissions. Unlike the show, the judges did not have to commit any of their own resources as initial capital but rather they rigorously assessed the submissions based on their capacity to improve health and save lives over the next 15 years. From their evaluations, a final roster of impactful, impressive innovations was developed and is detailed in a report entitled, “Reimagining Global Health: 30 High-Impact Innovations to Save Lives.”

As with Shark Tank, the innovations selected illustrate creativity, have the capacity for scale-up, and fill a “market” niche. But they have a leg up on Shark Tank innovations – strong evidence that they could save huge numbers of lives. It is hoped that “one or more of the innovations highlighted … will become a game-changer for global health over the next 15 years.” Some of the finalists include:

  • Tools to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality (could save up to 315,000 mothers’ lives);
  • Ways to improve water quality (could save 1.5 million children’s lives);
  • Technologies to improve detection and treatment of pneumonia (could save 1.68 million children’s lives); and
  • New treatments for diarrhea (could save 251,000 children’s lives).

On Shark Tank, the next step in the process after selection by the judges is being produced, promoted, and sold to consumers in the marketplace. In the case of IC2030, the “marketplace” is the “marketplace of ideas” being considered for investment, attention, and focus by public, private, and nongovernmental entities working in global health.

Some of the innovations among the IC2030 are ready for investment, production, and/or deployment today, while others are ideas that need further development and support. But all of the IC2030 interventions illustrate the value of investing in research and development and underscore the critical role innovation plays in achieving global health goals.

Studies and experience have shown that improvements in global health and reduction in poverty are good for global security. One example of this is the recent Ebola crisis. The Ebola outbreak, affecting many countries, underscored the need for high quality health systems in all parts of the world, and the danger that the spread of infectious diseases can cause low-income countries and the world.

Poor health can also contribute to instability and international terrorism abroad. Cooperation among countries on health care matters can improve relations between them. Improving health globally by investing in innovations also makes economic sense. Healthy individuals abroad are able to participate in markets, which can help strengthen the global economy.

The good news is, we know what can be achieved when the world comes together to solve these problems. Over the past 15 years, due to investment and innovation in global health, significant progress was made toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the global goals that preceded the development of the SDGs. As the UN member states turn their attention to global health and finalizing new goals to drive development efforts for the next 15 years, I urge domestic and international policymakers, advocates, investors, and other global health stakeholders to recommit to supporting innovation and to heed the #IC2030 interventions; they can save countless lives, promote national security, and improve the economy – achieving the Global Triple Aim. As the judges say on Shark Tank, “I’m in!”

Ilisa Halpern Paul is President of the District Policy Group, a boutique health policy and government relations consulting practice within Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP.  The views expressed are the author’s own. Carolyn Hull contributed to this column.

Morning Consult