Medical Equipment Program
For over a decade, we have monitored and protected the vaccine cold chain using our award-winning sensor-based technologies. How can these same technologies safeguard other aspects of life-saving solutions, namely, biomedical equipment functionality, and both the availability and quality of power in health facilities?
With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and in partnership with Boston University and the Lata Medical Research Foundation, Nexleaf expanded the scope of our work to answer that question. We began by monitoring essential equipment, such as radiant warmers, phototherapy lights, oxygen concentrators, and other critical life-saving tools, used in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in three government hospitals in India. Continuously monitoring the utilization of medical equipment enabled us to uncover important insights about health care delivery that were previously unknown. For example, our sensor data showed that some equipment, such as baby radiant warmers, was turned off overnight. By speaking with the nurses, we learned ad hoc practices were employed due to mistrust of equipment.
This work was an eye-opening experience for our team and made one thing very clear: more needs to be done to understand how medical equipment can better serve the needs of health care providers in LMICs.
A 2015 WHO survey cites a finding that only 28% of health facilities in the 14 low-income countries surveyed had reliable access to electricity. To better understand the gaps and challenges health care workers face, we began engaging global stakeholders, including equipment designers, manufacturers, and distributors, maintenance providers, Ministries of Health, and critical care nurses. From these conversations, we discovered that not only are there needs around supply chains, human resources, training, maintenance, and procurement, but there are also critical issues around power outages and power quality, which may be responsible for unreliable equipment performance. Our work monitoring NICU equipment over the past year has once again made evident that equipment deployed to LMICs must be designed to meet the needs of the local context. Without addressing the country’s needs, even the best-intentioned solutions can be a burden to healthcare providers and end up in equipment graveyards around the world.
Uncovering the ground truths around the use of life-saving equipment is more timely than ever. As the global development community comes together to support the response to COVID-19 and medical equipment floods into LMICs, there is an urgent need to ensure these investments generate real health impacts and long-term value for countries. We are committed to bringing a more robust understanding of effective and sustainable equipment utilization to the broader healthcare ecosystem.
With a focus on the COVID-19 pandemic response, our work provides a timely opportunity to ensure COVID-related investments around the globe result in sustainable returns—both in terms of health impacts and equipment performance.
Credit: Aude Guerruci, We Care Solar