October 2013

42 Technology shares its experiences of frugal medical devices at a seminar on healthcare technologies for developing countries.

Ryan Chessar, senior designer at 42 Technology, recently attended an IMechE seminar on appropriate healthcare technologies for developing countries. This year the annual event focused on opportunities for frugal technology in healthcare.

The developing world is not short of opportunities in need of appropriate, effective healthcare solutions. Nearly 75% of medical devices designed by industrialised countries fail to work in the developing world. The seminar highlighted many of the key design issues to consider and showcased a wide range of ingenious, frugal products.

With our experience in developing diagnostic devices for FIND (Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics) we are already familiar with many of the unique challenges and opportunities. It was fascinating to meet with designers and entrepreneurs who had faced similar challenges and have lively conversations about the new approaches we had used to solve them.

Novel solutions we heard about included recycled incubator units, an examination light powered by shaking, frugal X-ray devices by Siemens AG, medicines delivered using the gaps in Coca-Cola crates and a human powered nebuliser.

The demand for frugal healthcare solutions is huge in emerging markets. For example Africa has 25% of the world’s disease burden and only 3% of its health workers. Increasingly however, the tightening budgets for health care in industrialised countries are demanding more frugal and cost effective solutions. So the exciting opportunities in this area are developing rapidly worldwide.