DIY Medical Devices Aren't Toying Around

The term DIY Medical Device might conjure images of a FDA nightmare in the minds of most. But in a time when healthcare costs are increasing globally, Jose Gomez-Marquez, director of the Director of the IIH (Innovations in International Health) Lab at MIT, has embraced the idea by heading up MIT’s Little Devices group, dedicated to design, invention, and policy toward DIY health technologies.

The term DIY Medical Device might conjure images of a FDA nightmare in the minds of most. But in a time when healthcare costs are increasing globally, Jose Gomez-Marquez, director of the Director of the IIH (Innovations in International Health) Lab at MIT, has embraced the idea by heading up MIT’s Little Devices group, dedicated to design, invention, and policy toward DIY health technologies.

  image copyright D-Lab Health
Created with the healthcare needs of the developing world in mind, the MEDIKit (Medical Education Design and Invention Kit) allows medical professionals to design their own medical devices using easy-to-assemble modular components. The MEDIKit allows users to customize and quickly assemble medical devices that address the challenges of work environments in many developing nations.
 
Right now the MEDIKits span six areas: drug delivery, diagnostics, microfluidics, prosthetics, vital signs, and surgical devices. Each kit contains a platform with a combination of medical device parts that can be adapted and assembled into various functions like LEGOs. In fact, many of the Little Devices group’s many still developing projects revolve around reconfiguring and finding new uses for cheap, readily available products (like toys).
 
The vast majority of medical devices in developing countries come from outside sources–usually via donation. Reports and studies by various organizations, including the World Health Organization, have shown that most, if not all, of these devices are prone to failure, and usually do fail. The end result is that a hospital or medical facility that could not have afforded the costly equipment in the first place is now left holding the bag to pay for repair of the equipment.
 
MEDIKits are designed to demonstrate that such high cost equipment may be more of a luxury than a necessity by teaching medical staff to adopt other, potentially cheaper technologies to accomplish the same purpose. LEGOs can be used as breadboards to create wet lab circuits, a bicycle pump can be adapted into a nebulizer for asthmatic patients, Gomez-Marquez and his team really believe the possibilities are limited only by users’ ingenuity.
 
In an article written for MAKE, Gomez-Marquez expresses his hope that even non-medical users will get into the idea and “hack” their own healthcare for cheaper, yet equally effective, results. “As skyrocketing healthcare costs converge with the democratization of making, many more people will hack health. Whether it’s putting RFID stickers on pill bottles to help patients take their pills on time, or hacking bike pumps and scrapbook cutters, health is filled with fantastic challenges. You can make a difference whether or not you work in healthcare.”
 
 

  

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