Baylor Global Health and The Emergency Medical SmartPod™ – Health Care Market Overview

The first outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in recorded history occurred in Sudan between June and November 1976. This outbreak resulted in 284 cases and carried a mortality rate of 53% (“Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Sudan, 1976. Report of a WHO/International Study Team” , 1978). EVD, or simply Ebola, is a “dengue fever” virus that spreads to humans and other primates through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, and breast milk. Fruit bats and other wild animals, including several species of monkeys, transmit Ebola from animals to humans (Pigott et al., 2014). The disease is manifested by high fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and weakness, followed by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a rash that spreads. Internal and external bleeding usually ensues. Ebola carries a high mortality risk, with mortality estimates between 40 – 90% (“Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Sudan, 1976. Report of a WHO/International Study Team,” 1978; Kalra et al., 2014; Kaushik, Tiwari, Dev Jayant , Marty, & Nair, 2016). Although many health care workers hear the call for humanitarian services, the lack of adequate drinking water or water delivery systems, sanitation, refrigerators, lighting, and centralized electricity, which is often experienced during epidemics and natural disasters, makes quality health services a challenge for local communities. . and foreign aid workers. To remedy this difficult situation, Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy and her Baylor Global Health team have developed the Emergency Medical SmartPod™, an expandable shipping container-based clinic that addresses key barriers to quality healthcare in remote and disaster-stricken areas. Anandasabapathy is Vice President of Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology, and Director of Baylor Global Health, and when he finds time to lay down his lab coat, he ponders innovative ways to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems. Alluding to the fictional character Dr. Dave Bowman from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” let’s “open the door to the pod room” and take a closer look at the Emergency Medical SmartPod™.

The Emergency Medical SmartPod™ gives remote villages in Africa and disaster areas around the world the advantages of modern hospitals found in the United States. It may serve as a primary care clinic, surgical operating theater, hospital, isolation unit, laboratory facility, or a combination of all of the above when the units are grouped and combined. This cost-effective unit is a global health innovation. SmartPod™ is fully equipped and up and running quickly. With the help of as little as four people in less than 20 minutes, our specially engineered, lightweight, aluminum-walled, ISO standard 8′ x 20′ shipping container is transformed into a stunning 400+ square foot clinic facility with infection control surfaces, tubing plumbing, climate control, patient privacy features, and connectivity for external utilities. SmartPod™ also contains smart applications, equipped with algorithms to assist clinical quality and efficiency (Kim et al., 2018; USAID, 2015). Dr. Anandasabapathy believes in teaching underserved communities around the world ‘how to fish’, not simply giving them ‘fish’.

The SmartPod™ is a mobile medical unit or field hospital, first designed to assist healthcare workers during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2013–2016 (Kim et al., 2018). As the world’s deadliest Ebola outbreak, the West African Ebola outbreak began in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia and resulted in more than 28,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths (Coltart, Lindsey, Ghinai, Johnson, & Heymann, 2017). SmartPod™ is a unique solution to this huge global challenge. In 2014, Baylor Global Health, with support from USAID, developed a unique, flexible, off-grid medical facility with the ability to respond to epidemics and natural disasters in the US and abroad. In September 2016, SmartPod™ was shipped to Monrovia, Liberia which enabled doctors to perform cataract surgery for Ebola survivors. The current 2018–2019 Kivu Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has become the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history with over 3,000 cases and over 2,000 deaths (Ilunga Kalenga et al., 2019). The Baylor Global Health team worked to understand how the SmartPod™ could benefit those fighting these challenges on the ground.

Dr. Anandasabapathy was truly a visionary. He has solved the equations for modern medicine, and applied those formulas to the global theatre. Thanks to NASA and the Mars habitat program, Dr. Anandasabapathy may even have otherworldly implications. Doctors today need expert knowledge and the latest technology to practice medicine effectively. As humanity attempts to travel to Mars, perhaps the SmartPod™ will be where men (or women) make the next big leap in healthcare.


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Kalra, S., Kelkar, D., Galwankar, SC, Papadimos, TJ, Stawicki, SP, Arquilla, B., . . . Jahre, JA (2014). The emergence of Ebola as a threat to global health security: from ‘lessons learned’ to coordinated multilateral response efforts. J Glob Infect Dis, 6(4), 164-177. doi:10.4103/0974-777X.145247

Kaushik, A., Tiwari, S., Dev Jayant, R., Marty, A., & Nair, M. (2016). Towards detection and diagnosis of Ebola virus disease at the point of care. Biosen Bioelectron, 75, 254-272. doi:10.1016/j.bios.2015.08.040

Kim, EJ, Navarro, SM, Michel, S., Soyars, C., Hilmers, D., & Anandasabapathy, S. (2018). Development of mobile medical units that can be deployed quickly for emergency disaster management. Lancet Global Health, 6, S50. doi:10.1016/s2214-109x(18)30179-7

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