How a Simple Technology Can Deliver Equal Access to Global Health Care: The pace of progress in global health is determined by our ability to seed, nurture and spread innovation. Through Grand Challenges for Development, USAID uncovers promising ideas and applies rigorous, market-oriented approaches to cut the time it takes to transform ideas in a lab to impact on the ground.
Shift Labs has a notable mission: build simple and affordable products for health care providers around the world.
Based in Seattle, Shift Labs is the brainchild of Beth Kolko, an academic-turned-innovator and a professor at the University of Washington. In 2012, she teamed up with a partner to build what she describes as a different kind of medical device company.
“About 10 years ago, I started working on projects related to global health — mobile health and digital device projects, including a mobile ultrasound device,” Kolko says.
“Working with teams to develop prototypes that could become actual products, it became increasingly obvious that the incentive structures for medical devices are just not in line with affordability,” says Kolko. “I decided to start a company that would build those structures and create opportunity for new kinds of devices that were rugged, simple and capable of functioning in any setting.”
The company’s flagship product, DripAssist, is a battery-powered monitor that constantly measures the flow rate and volume of a medication administered via an IV drip, and sounds an alarm if the rate fluctuates. The infusion rate monitor is also FDA-approved, low-cost and portable. Typical gravity infusion performed without the right tools is highly prone to inaccuracy, which can be particularly harmful when treating children and other vulnerable patients who require very specific fluid quantities.
According to the company, research shows that during gravity infusion, four out of five patients receive medication that is at least 20 percent off the intended dose. In contrast, DripAssist has been developed to monitor drip rates with an accuracy of plus or minus 1 percent. Gravity infusion is common in settings where infusion pumps are impractical because of infrastructure, cost or training constraints.
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How a Simple Technology Can Deliver Equal Access to Global Health Care: