Medical Innovations Seek to Address Global Health Issues
Imagine living in an area of the world where potable drinking water is scarce and electric is unreliable. Now, imagine trying to change the world of healthcare by creating inexpensive, innovative, and safe healthcare products that take scarce water and unreliable electricity into account. The lack of reliable sources of water and electricity have spurred graduate students at and doctors at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Utah are addressing global health issues such as basic surgical care, and premature infant mortality rates through affordable technology that can be used in developing countries. By working with technology, those in the field of medicine are striving to decrease premature infant mortality rates and disease linked mortality rates. The opportunities for care created by these innovations help meet doctors, communities and public health goals of reducing sickness
The Wall Street Journal reported that almost two-thirds of the world’s population lack access to safe, affordable surgical care 1. The lack of access to surgical care leads to approximately 18 million deaths each year in middle to low-income countries 1. Due to the creativity of doctors and graduate students, there are three new health care products which are either soon to be available or are already available to those practicing medicine in low to middle income countries.
The Wall Street Journal 1 reported on Dr. John Langall’s idea of building a laparoscope from cell phone parts and the success his graduate students have had in their creation. Dr. Langell and his team from the University of Utah came up with the Xenoscope. The Xenoscope does not need a video screen or a large processor to transmit images. It is able to send images from inside the patient’s body to a laptop or a smartphone. Either the laptop or the smartphone provides the energy needed for minimally invasive procedures to be performed anywhere.
Two more innovations have improved access to surgery in middle to lower income countries as well. Debbie Teodorescu, invented the SurgiBox, a collapsible tent that creates a sterile space around the portion of a patient undergoing surgery 2. The SurgiBox can be carried in a backpack and uses a pump, to sterilize the air inside the box and can be operated manually if there is no electricity. A second invention is the Lifebox, developed by Acare Technology Co., a pulse oximeter that can withstand drops. The Lifebox and the Anesthesia Machine, invented by Dr. Paul Fenton, a machine that supplies compressed oxygen to anesthesia machines making them operable even if electricity is unreliable or unavailable runs off of batteries.6666
To address premature infant mortality rates Stanford University’s Design for Extreme Affordability program, which comprises teams of graduate students, developed an incubator which costs 1% of an average incubator which typically runs approximately $20,000. Instead of an incubator, the students designed a “portable infant warmer, like a tiny sleeping bag 2. The portable infant warmer provides care for premature infants in remote areas with little to no access to electricity. The article in The Wall Street Journal goes on to say “the Stanford team founded a nonprofit, Embrace Innovations, which licenses the technology to a manufacturer and works with three nonprofit organizations to distribute the warmers. The Embrace Infant Warmer can be used multiple times and passed on to other families” 2.
Each health care product strives to meet the healthcare needs of the communities in middle to low income countries. Previously, those in developing countries received equipment which was donated to them but hard to use due to the restraints of the country’s infrastructure. By creating medical tools which take a country’s infrastructure into consideration, doctors can provide safe, reliable medical care to those in need.
1. Beck, Melinda. New Low-Cost Surgical Tool Could Help Patients in Third World. The Wall Street Journal, September 23,2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/newlowcostsurgicaltoolcouldhelppatientsinthirdworld1474855620
2. Beck, Melinda. The Challenge of Health-Care Innovation in Developing Nations. The Wall Street Journal, September 25,2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/thechallengeofhealthcareinnovationindevelopingnations1474855561