Doing Good

Unlocking healthcare excellence: How drone data empowers BHI

November 30, 2023

Build Health International’s (BHI) mission is to enable dignified, affordable and high-quality healthcare – regardless of a patient’s geographical location or ability to pay. The organization’s commitment to creating a more equitable health future has led to innovations and partnerships that are transforming healthcare in low- and middle-income countries. One way BHI is building healthcare access  is through the use of drone technology.

From crisis to creation

BHI’s origins begin in Haiti. Working in collaboration with Partners In Health (PIH), BHI’s co-founders were  planning a small hospital in Mirebalais when the catastrophic 2010 earthquake struck.  The earthquake affected an estimated three million people and caused the loss of an estimated two hundred thousand lives. Vital health infrastructure crumbled, leaving the country in disarray. In response,  PIH, what would soon formally become BHI, and the Haitian Ministry of Health recalibrated their plans for Mirebalais hospital. Instead of a 100-bed community hospital, BHI would now embark on the construction of a 300-bed university teaching hospital spanning over 240,000 square feet.

Construction kicked off in July 2010, and the hospital opened its doors in May 2013. The new facility boasted 12+ buildings, six modern operating rooms, the region's only BSL3 laboratory, and the distinction of being the largest solar-powered hospital in the Caribbean. Beyond its healthcare impact, the hospital became, and still is today, an economic engine for the community, offering vital employment opportunities.

New insight through reality capture

DroneDeploy has played a pivotal role in enhancing the efficiency of BHI's operations. With a large 30-acre site to manage in Haiti, BHI relies on drone data to monitor ongoing additions, facilities, and more. Valuable  image visualization enables  effective communication among various stakeholders, from maintenance personnel to clinicians, administrators, and community leaders. This technology saves time, minimizes errors, and offers clarity – which is vital in complex design and build projects.

DroneDeploy software has been particularly beneficial when addressing roof leaks affecting critical areas of the Mirebalais hospital. Once detected, BHI removed existing solar panels and helped inform the upgrade and expansion of the solar system. The team used DroneDeploy’s elevation and 3D viewer tools to quantify shade projection estimates for the final panel layout. Because of the extreme heat, it was much safer to have a drone fly the roof than a team member inspect it.

A non-traditional growth plan

Over the years, BHI has successfully completed more than 200 projects in low- and middle-income countries around the globe. This work comes with unique challenges, including material distribution logistics, supply chain complexities, and weather. However, transportation and access remain some of the most significant hurdles, exemplified by the remote Haitian island of la Gonâve, situated approximately 50 miles east of Port-Au-Prince. This barren and hilly island, measuring about 37 miles long by 9 miles wide, presents significant logistical challenges when designing and building healthcare infrastructure.

Innovation embedded in operations

The critical nature of healthcare delivery in such locations necessitates innovative solutions. DroneDeploy technology has emerged as a game-changer, allowing BHI to quickly capture site data, contours, and other critical geographical context while simultaneously reducing travel to and from remote sites. 

DroneDeploy also provides an opportunity for BHI staff to acquire and utilize cutting-edge tools and technologies, allowing them realize their full professional potential. BHI firmly believes that the best technology should not be reserved exclusively for large-scale or well developed hospitals; it should be accessible to all, particularly in underserved communities.

In collaboration with DroneDeploy, BHI has extended technical training opportunities to its global staff, including training on DroneDeploy and participation in the DroneDeploy academy.  For example, Abijah Offré, a information technology technician at BHI, initially used DroneDeploy in Haiti to capture critical information for designers, engineers, and project managers. Today, Abijah is in Sierra Leone and is imparting his knowledge and expertise to train BHI’s construction teams working on various healthcare projects with several new projects in Sierra Leone slated to begin next year.

Challenging gender norms in construction (Strength within Diversity)

A remarkable facet of BHI's work is the composition of their international workforces and team members. At the Maternal Center of Excellence project in Sierra Leone, 60% of the construction team consists of women from the local community. This state-of-the-art facility both  promises substantial improvements in maternal healthcare and challenges traditional gender roles in the construction industry.

Hawa, a 21-year-old worker in quality control at the MCOE project, expresses the sentiment of empowerment and ownership that permeates the project. She proudly states, "It is for us, the women who will give birth here. That’s why we are putting in effort to build the hospital. That is why you see plenty of women here."

Build Health International won the 2023 DroneDeploy Community Excellence Award. Learn more about and the work of nonprofit organizations using DroneDeploy here.

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