Roald is the lead clinical engineer in Kingstown Hospital, the only hospital serving the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He and the maintenance staff repair medical equipment in a tiny back room of the hospital, made even smaller by the heaps of broken and incompatible devices stacked in corners, under desks, and along hallways. They work tirelessly to revive essential equipment that's already years past its expiration date, but they're still always behind. Why is the room so packed with equipment? Because nothing gets thrown away in the developing world - even when it's equipment that isn't compatible with the country's infrastructure.
What it does
Enter MedMatch Help - an easy-to-access service that allows healthcare professionals in the developing world to send requests for shipments of medical equipment via text. These requests are catalogued and matched with inventory from first-world hospitals. This streamlines the process to request equipment, makes it easier to access in remote areas without internet access, and gives resource-limited hospitals a bigger voice to communicate their needs.
MedMatch Help improves the med-tech donation process on the donating party's end as well. The service allows medical professionals to communicate their desire to donate a piece of equipment by simply snapping a photo of the device and texting it to MedMatch Help. MedMatch Help identifies the piece of equipment, finds the manufacturer, model number, and other key information. MedMatch Help uses this information along with that gathered from developing countries to rank pieces of equipment and match supply to demand. When a match is made, MedMatch Help coordinates the equipment to a hospital that has requested that particular device.
How I developed the idea
We first imagined a web-based service to coordinate matching of equipment between donors and recipients, but soon realized that many locations requiring donations do not have reliable internet access. Mobile phones are ubiquitous and text is easier to use than lengthy web forms anyway. Using text simplifies the process and broadens the pool of participants from both a donor and recipient standpoint.
Challenges I ran into
Our group does not have the skills needed to set up this mobile-phone-based service, so our hack is limited to needs-finding and creation of a plan that can be implemented later on.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Our group made a lot of progress toward understanding the problem we were addressing. This is a problem area that we have been focused on for months, but we made our big realizations and breakthroughs in understanding the true issues at MedHacks 1.0
What I learned
Understanding the problem is key to devising an effective solution. Although it may take a long time, thorough preliminary research will save time and decrease stress in the long run.
What's next for MedMatch Help
We will create our service for communicating with donors and recipients and start working with current med tech donation organizations to spread word about our idea, get feedback, and make improvements.