Designing Medical Devices for the Developing World (Part 3)

As touched on previously, one of the biggest issues in developing world health care is lack of funds to acquire and maintain medical equipment. To help alleviate this issue, certain design considerations should be kept in mind, including 1) designing for low-cost, 2) ease of maintenance, 3) use in non or intermittent power situations, 4) avoiding the requirement for disposables that are not accessible in the location of use; and all the while maintaining a satisfactory level of device efficacy.

The reason to design for low-cost is probably the most self-explanatory of the design considerations. There simply isn’t the budget for developing world hospitals to acquire the high priced devices which are used in developed nations.  To begin thinking of how to reduce the cost of the device a few questions should be raised. Can a new or different technology be utilized which reduces cost and satisfies the same need? Is there a cheaper way to utilize the same technology, such as simplifying the current design or using less expensive components? In some cases a comparable need does not exist in the developed world and therefore a new means of fulfilling the need is necessary. A pertinent example of design which falls into this category is the development of a pouch (similar to a fast-food condiment packet) to house a drug called Nevirapine used to prevent mother-to-infant HIV. HIV-positive pregnant women who live in remote areas in the developing world often do not have access to Nevirapine shortly after giving birth. To solve this problem a pouch which holds a single dose of the drug was developed and can be provided to mothers well before giving birth. When the child is born, the mother may administer the drug to the child themselves without the need of travelling to a health care facility. A complete article on this innovative solution can be found at this link Novel Pouch Could Reduce Mother-to-Infant HIV Infection.

The ability for developing world health care facilities to maintain and repair their medical equipment is often very minimal. As a result, the consistent scene present at almost all developing world hospitals is a storage room piled high from floor to ceiling with out-of-service medical equipment. The situation in developed world health care facilities is quite the opposite.  Hospitals in the developed world are equipped with a department of highly skilled biomedical technicians and/or engineers whose sole job is to maintain the equipment. In addition, medical equipment in the developed world is often under a maintenance contract to ensure that the equipment receives adequate preventative maintenance and repairs.

Designing Medical Devices for the Developing World (Part 4)
Designing Medical Devices for the Developing World (Part 2)