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Disclaimer Emerging economies drive frugal innovation A host of new and reliable low-cost medical devices specially adapted to needs of low- and middle-income countries is on the way, driven by increased demand for cost-effective health care. Ajanthy Arasaratnam and Gary Humphreys report.
It is being evaluated in a clinical trial in the Philippines and Viet Nam. How do you do blood transfusions when you have no medical equipment, no donors and no blood? This is a question that comes up all too frequently in sub-Saharan Africa, where blood donations in many countries fail to meet the demand for transfusions and where clinics, particularly those in remote rural areas, are underequipped.
In the absence of blood and equipment, patients in need of transfusion — such as women haemorrhaging as a result of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy — are forced to fall back on a crude form of auto-transfusion using kitchen equipment.
From there, it filters through a gauze-lined funnel, feeds into a blood bag and drips back into her body. For example, power-hungry devices — conceived to function in high-income countries with electrical power grids — can leave hospitals and clinics in poorer countries struggling to find generators or scavenging for batteries.
Moreover, devices that are not designed to cope with heat, humidity and dust or to be used intensively are unlikely to last very long. These kinds of issues have contributed to a situation in which a large proportion of medical equipment in developing countries may be partly or totally unusable.
As companies begin to recognize the market potential in low- and middle-income countries, their approach looks set to change. The company is also taking account of local conditions when it develops and tests new products, conditions which include power outages, voltage fluctuations, high levels of dust and pollution, and intensive equipment use.
Together with Californian-based industrial design firm 3rd Stone Design, they have developed an extremely low-cost bubble continuous positive airway pressure bCPAP machine to help babies, especially when they are premature, to breathe. Bubble CPAP devices are a common sight in paediatric wards in the developed world, where they are used to treat infants that have difficulty breathing.
Preliminary data from a recent clinical trial at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, suggest that the device can significantly improve survival for infants struggling with respiratory distress.
For John Anner, president of East Meets West, a nongovernmental organization focused on health and education in Asia, making medical devices accessible in low-income settings is not just about getting the initial unit-cost down. With regard to bCPAPs, Anner argues that even if a clinic or hospital has managed to procure a cheap unit, it still has to pay for consumables.
The East Meets West Breath of Life programme also provides clinical and technical training for hospital staff, and monitors every one of the pieces of equipment it has in use in more than hospitals in eight countries. Like Kruzikas, Anner also stresses the importance of durability and simplicity of use, but argues that these objectives should not be pursued at the expense of appearance.
Of course, at the end of the day, good looks mean nothing if the device in question turns out to be unreliable. And, beyond being more reliable, they may also be more accessible.FA SERIES PAGES SCBA SERIES PAGE 6 50/50 SERIES PAGE 7 BC SERIES PAGES EG Ask us about this exciting new innovation for Rural Fire Fighting when using lakes, ponds and other natural water sources.
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Do-it-yourself health care technology has become a hot area, as smart devices promise to transform homes, workplaces, and cell phones into accessible sites for health monitoring and intervention.
Once a patient was strapped into the cylinder, a suction pump forced air in and out of the "iron lung," stimulating the patient's own lungs into action. Good Vibrations On March 7, , the United States Patent Office issued Alexander Graham Bell patent No.
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