How to democratize medical technology

by Editor
August 19, 2021

If you’re based in one of the developing countries or you’re a young surgeon starting your practice, you might have experienced a typical problem with accessibility to medical equipment and MedTech innovation. It’s mostly produced in developed countries and focused on clinics and surgeons with high incomes. Great news: this paradigm is changing, and we’re getting more and more affordable functional devices. Keep reading to learn how or simply watch the video below.

How medical technology is typically produced and spread

Medical devices are usually developed in the USA, Europe or Japan. These regions represent more than 75% of the market. Even more, the top 10 MedTech companies are located either in the United States or Europe.

The development process usually involves three key players, such as a health institution (a clinic or hospital), a university, and a private device manufacturer. Mostly they study the problems present in the health institution and put all the efforts to come up with solutions to address these problems.

Keeping this in mind, we can argue that medical devices are developed to solve problems present in rich countries and their health institutions. Unfortunately, they don’t consider the other countries where the problems in healthcare institutions differ a lot. 

Then, after the development, the sales force comes into action. It focuses on understanding MedTech and explaining it to the surgeons or healthcare practitioners in third countries and trying to convince the key decision-makers. These decision-makers have to compare the different technologies coming from Europe, Japan and the USA and select the one that can better fit their needs. Since the situations that practitioners encounter in developing countries differ vastly from problems present in rich countries, they can only adopt and adapt medical technology that doesn’t fully address their needs.

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    What problems are present in developing countries?

    There are two main challenges. First of all, the coverage for the diagnosis is a lot more reduced than it is in richer countries. It’s caused by two main reasons: (1) the third countries don’t have proper medical technology and (2) there is a lower number of trained specialists. This creates an environment in which specialists and technologies are centralized in large public clinics and hospitals in major cities that can acquire medical technology and employ proper specialists.

    The second problem is that the budget for treatment in developing countries is a lot smaller than the budget you might see in richer countries.

    We have two possible ways to solve these problems. First, we have to focus on increasing the coverage of the population, making sure that everybody has access to diagnosis. This can happen through affordable MedTech mixed with telemedicine applications that can help surgeons operate or assist in surgeries remotely. Based in big cities, they can check patients from rural areas or small towns. By allowing diagnosing patients in different locations, simultaneously we can multiply the number of specialists at a given point in time. 

    The second solution is to make treatments more accessible. Currently, the development of treatment machines and procedures is leaning towards the safety of patients, which is really good. However, this involves the creation of many single-use tools and consumables that generate tons of pollution but simultaneously make the medical procedures a lot more expensive.

    To tackle this problem, we need to focus on a medical innovation that, although guaranteeing the safety of the patient, can be reusable and applied in different countries. Although surgeons might have a lower budget, this way we’ll be decreasing the overall cost of every single surgery.

    Examples of institutions that tackle medical technology problems

    There are two great examples of MedTech companies spreading the ideas that we mentioned. The first one is Rice University where researchers create so-called sterile boxes. It’s an all-in-one sterilization station built into a 20-foot shipping container. They put everything on the shipping container and feed it with solar power to enable steam sterilization with machines inside there. Plus, they have a built-in water filtering system. 

    Then, a very good and popular example is the laboratory of Professor Manu Prakash at Stanford. They create tools, such as microscopes that can help see droplets of water and blood and cost under €1. These tools help diagnose patients in remote locations and poor countries. We’ve recently noticed a centrifuge system that they were developing. It cost around 20 cents. This is incredible. 

    We at Custom Surgical are on the same mission with our MicroREC that is affordable and accessible for specialists all around the world but also enables telemedicine and online medical education.

    Consultation has to have no boundaries. We want to see the future in which healthcare is accessible for everybody. And this is why we are trying to democratize access to MedTech innovation and enable telemedicine. We believe we can make our mission a reality through affordable hardware and mobile software applications.

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