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Connecting people with the future of healthcare, now

Medtronic LABS is reaching more marginalized communities through healthcare technology.

In a rural community in Kenya, a community health worker visits a patient in his home at the top of a steep hill. She takes a blood pressure monitor out of a black backpack filled with a glucometer, a scale, and educational materials and wraps the cuff around his arm to get a reading. It’s high.

Empower Health application on a tablet

A health worker signs into the SPICE platform in rural Kenya

She enters the numbers into a tablet and a doctor five miles away receives a notification. The patient is immediately connected to care, including medication, a peer support group, and diet and exercise education. Since he has a smartphone, he can even opt to receive text message reminders and download an app for self-monitoring.

This is what the future of community healthcare looks like. It’s happening now, and it’s made possible through SPICE, Medtronic LABS’ new digital health platform for community-based population health.

Medtronic LABS is an independent Medtronic-funded nonprofit organization that accelerates healthcare access for underserved communities around the world through technology.

And that technology is reimagining the future of healthcare by delivering the right solution at the right time to the right place to make care more efficient, accessible, and equitable.

Infographic: 1 to 1000 physicians-to-patient ratio in Kenya

Since launching in 2013, LABS has reached more than 1 million patients with hypertension and diabetes, and trained over 3,000 health workers in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, the United States, and India.

More than three quarters of all noncommunicable disease (NCD) deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. In Kenya alone, where LABS recently expanded nationwide, hypertension and diabetes are major health concerns and cardiovascular disease is among the leading causes of death. And there is only one physician per 1,000 people in the country of over 54 million, many of whom live in hard-to-reach places.

LABS is addressing this by training community health workers operating in low-resource settings how to screen patients for hypertension and diabetes and use LABS’ digital health platform, SPICE.

SPICE technology at the center of Community, Clinical, Patient engagement, and Health system

The technology platform helps streamline care for patients and clinicians who get an alert if there’s a high blood pressure reading in the field. The dashboard tracks health outcomes and population health indicators in real time — which can support policy and planning for health system leaders.

SPICE is part of what makes LABS so effective. But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. LABS also forges strong partnerships in the public and private sector, all while connecting patients to care through a network of community health workers.

“SPICE is more than a tool that collects and reports data. It’s a platform designed to drive patient outcomes through community-based care delivery that’s proactive and personalized,” said Anne Stake, chief strategy and product officer for LABS.

quote outline

With SPICE, the patient information is at our fingertips.”

–Jackson Nzivu, clinician, Kathonzweni Health Centre

Jackson Nzivu portrait

Doctor with tablet visiting a patient

A doctor in rural Kenya uses the SPICE platform to record patient information

Convenient features like remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and smartphone and tablet connectivity give people the freedom they deserve while providing insights that help clinicians reach more people.

The SPICE platform is an example of the kind of connected care that enhances the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of global health systems.

And to create a platform that truly meets people’s needs, LABS used a method called human-centered design.

This approach to innovation includes the community — in this case, patients, clinicians, and health system leaders — from the beginning. Empathy is at the center of human-centered design but LABS takes it a step further by employing researchers and designers in the communities where it works — with 95% of its employees based regionally.

“The best way to ensure we’re being true to human-centered design principles is to be part of that community,” said Bonstein Sisa, LABS’ Kenya-based Design Strategy Lead for Africa.

Sisa is just one of LABS’ design leaders born and raised in the regions where LABS works. He’s most excited about the frequent, high-value touchpoints with patients that the SPICE platform enables. “That increases our knowledge about the patient and, therefore, improves personalization,” he said. “If someone was at risk of stroke, blindness, or another complication from diabetes and hypertension, some of those things can be caught — and treated — earlier.”

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