Dr. Phillip Olla: Using Mobile Phones to Care for the Under Served

June 6th, 2014 by Bita Milanian - 2 Comments

phillipThe next visionary leader I would like to spotlight in my series on Companies, Cultures, and Leaders I Admire is Dr. Phillip Olla, CEO and co-founder of Mobile Diagnostic Services. Throughout his career, Olla has held roles in various sectors, including telecommunications, space, finance, and healthcare, but what truly stands out to me is his work in mobile healthcare.

Through partnerships with Finnish startup, iSTOC, and African phone manufacturer, miFone, Mobile Diagnostic Services has created technology that connects people from developing countries to advanced medical testing. Their Mobile Laboratory uses a smart phone camera to read existing tests and digitize the results. So far, the company has readers for HIV, Malaria, Dengue, CRP, Pregnancy, Cancer, and Influenza.

phillip1Olla’s company has also created a pseudo-medical device, known as miCare that is essentially a low-cost Android phone loaded with a suite of mobile health applications to aid in the process of diagnosing, treating, and monitoring in the field.

Upon receiving his PhD in Mobile Telecommunications from Brunel University in the UK, Olla has been at the forefront of mobile innovation. His passion is focused on the union of telecommunications and healthcare. He has given talks on this subject to top companies all over the globe, as well as to the scientific and academic community.

Olla’s outlook on business is inspiring in that he places corporate social responsibility as a top priority. He is a highly accomplished consultant, author, Chartered Engineer, and even professor (an Endowed Phillips Chair of Management and Director of the Center for Research at Madonna University, and visiting professor at Stanford University to be exact!), but what really sets him apart is the way he uses his knowledge and experience to improve the lives of people from around the world.

phillip0olla1Technology like this could have a major impact in emerging countries. Simply giving people these tools and teaching them how to monitor their health could really change lives. As the late Nelson Mandela famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” When people learn how to monitor their health and wellness, or watch the educational modules found on the miCare device, they can better care for themselves and their loved ones. This kind of innovative technology gives people additional resources, which will hopefully result in a decrease in some of these diseases.

Following successful testing in Nairobi, Kenya, the technology is now transitioning to a medical facility/pharmacy setting. In a kind of “reverse innovation” as Dr. Olla puts it, these products that were initially designed and created for developing countries are now moving to developed markets like the U.S. We are just beginning to see how American and European markets will utilize this exciting technology, and I’m sure it will become increasingly popular.


Despite his company’s continued success, Dr. Olla remains humble and exhibits a great amount of passion for his work, never forgetting the reason why he started. We need more social entrepreneurs like Olla- people who will use their innovative and imaginative minds to help people who are sometimes left behind. Current and future business leaders can learn from his view that, “Providing care to the under served, is just as important as pleasing our investors.” Dr. Philip Olla shows us that technology (and compassion) really can change the world.

Click here to watch a video of Dr. Olla explaining his products at mHealth Summit.

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