— AAAS Entrepreneur (@AAAS_Entr) September 19, 2016
AAAS Member Leyla Taghizade is the founder of HealthBox, a health app in Azerbaijan that transfers a patient’s health and vital data directly to physicians and pharmacists.
Leyla was a finalist in this year’s GIST Tech-I Competition, an annual competition for science and technology entrepreneurs from 135 emerging economies around the world. GIST Tech-I is part of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative and has been implemented by AAAS since 2014.
We asked Leyla why and how she’s contributing to United Nations Global Sustainable Development Goal #3, Good Health and Well-being. Her responses are summarized below.
What motivated you to pursue a career in medicine and public health?
I grew up in a family of physicians. Medicine was always an essential thing that we discussed in our family. I was sure my future career should be medicine. I received a diploma in medicine from Azerbaijani State Medical University. I believed an advanced scientific degree in interdisciplinary subject such as public health would help me to understand challenges in healthcare, especially those faced by counties in transition. Public health is a wide discipline which connects healthcare with economy, law, sociology, management and many other areas.
What are some of the challenges to providing reliable an effective medical care in Azerbaijan?
The main challenge is unequal coverage. While the big cities have an oversupply in number of medical providers, rural regions suffer from the shortages of pharmacies and qualified medical personnel. Young people prefer to stay in big cities, rather than returning back to their homeland and continuing to work in rural regions. Pharmacies are also mostly in big cities, so villagers have to travel long distances to reach medicines when they need it.
How does operating as an entrepreneur, not just a medical professional, position you to address some of these health care system challenges?
For me, being a physician is fundamental to operating as an entrepreneur. I see patients every day and know their actual needs. That really helps me know very quickly how a business concept or an idea will fit into the realm of health care. That’s important because sometimes, an idea looks good on paper, but it does not work in reality, and doesn't truly fit into the local operating model. On the other hand, entrepreneurship helps me solve social problems independently, without referring to a third party.
The “HealthBox” is a mobile application designed to improve patients’ access to medical services. By using the mobile app, a patient can send medical information directly to medical institutions and pharmacies. Users will be able to take a screenshot of a prescription and send it via the app to all of the drug stores in the country. They will then receive information directly to their mobile phones about the availability of the medicine they are looking for and its price. Delivery service will be provided by patient request. That means that people who live in remote regions will be able to order their medicine without traveling to the cities.
For more information on HealthBox, visit www.healthbox.club.