As the health care that citizens of wealthy, developed countries are familiar with grows more and more sophisticated with constant advances in technology, health care in the developing world is a completely different picture. In countries in Asia and Africa, even as more consumers gain mobile phones, basic, life-saving medical technology is lacking. Millions of people worldwide don’t have access to adequate health care, and in many countries, millions don’t have access to a hospital or clinic at all without traveling long distances.
But even as technology becomes less expensive to produce and devices become easier to develop, the medical technology that’s abundant in hospitals in the U.S., as an example, is still extremely expensive, and inaccessible to physicians and patients in the developing world. Many rural clinics even lack consistent access to electricity or to basic supplies.
So a growing number of entrepreneurs, companies, and foundations are creating alternate health care devices that have the potential to help millions of people globally. The World Health Organization says that medical devices are “essential for safe and effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of illness and disease.” The group defines a medical device as “An article, instrument, apparatus or machine that is used in the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of illness or disease, or for detecting, measuring, restoring, correcting or modifying the structure or function of the body for some health purpose. Typically, the purpose of a medical device is not achieved by pharmacological, immunological or metabolic means.”
Let’s take a look at a small selection of the health care devices that are currently in various stages of being field-tested or distributed to developing countries around the world. Some of them are diagnostic tools, others make routine procedures safer, and all of them deliver life-saving capability that most of us take for granted to places where they can be of huge benefit to millions of people.