The Low-Resource Context
We started off the week with an interview with Tatiana Jensen, one of the original member of the team that developed SurgeCare. It was definitely a valuable meeting as it was the first time we got to corroborate the information that we read from the papers and presentation written by the original team.
Through our discussion, we discovered that in the relatively short semester-long program, the SurgeCare team was unable to experiment with all the factors that they had intended to test. There were untested variables such as temperature of water, quality of water, pressure of water, and repeated use of the device. This gave us a general direction as to how we should go about improving the device should we decide to go ahead and build it within these six weeks.
Tatiana was very patient with our questions and generous with her time. She was able to confirm that her team intended for their project to be open source and non-profit so that it can be freely accessible to low-resource regions that can benefit from it most. The team had also donated their $6000 award to SPECT to improve education in sterile processing in low-resource countries. We would later find out from Christina Fast, founder of Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust (SPECT) who has had ground experience in 15 low-resource countries, that distribution of the technology and training users to effectively use the technology could in itself be as big of a challenge as its engineering and development.
It is through Christina Fast that we got to reminded of the very human and systematic aspects of healthcare in low-resource regions. We were told that in these regions, it is often difficult to enforce accountability in ensuring the sterility of surgical equipment. Unlike in the United States and other developed nations where the sterility of medical equipment is the responsibility of the standalone Sterile Processing Department (SPD), surgical equipment in low-resource clinical settings is often cleaned at the location of surgery right before its commencement. Lacking the structure of developed healthcare systems, the medical staff are sometimes undertrained and fail to realize the importance of significant steps in the sterilization process and as such, often skip certain critical steps in the procedure due to time crunch. From this conversation we learnt the importance of making our design as intuitive and as simple as possible so as to encourage users to go through the steps required to achieve maximum sterility.
we learnt the importance of making our design as intuitive and as simple as possible so as to encourage users to go through the steps required to achieve maximum sterility.
Another surprising fact we learnt from this meeting is that communication barriers plays a very significant role in effecting available technology and improvements to medical procedures — unfortunately, that proves to be a challenge in developing countries. Christina notes that guidelines adopted by Ethiopia such as the Infection Prevention Guidelines are not fully practiced in local hospitals even years after they were introduced. This helps us to understand that ‘customer relationships’ and ‘channels’ under the Business Model Canvas will be one of our major considerations, aside from the technology itself.
Christina had emphasized multiple times over the course of our interview the importance of building trust and relationship through direct human-to-human interaction and education. She also shared that SPECT is currently developing a host of video media aimed at teaching sterile cleaning procedures and offered to let us use it when it becomes available in late 2022. Overall, this week was a week of enlightenment in terms of discovering what is important in the development of our biomedical device in a low-resource context.