NicaraguaUnited States
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

DIY medical technology construction sets.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

95% of medical equipment in hospitals in the developing world is imported. These medical devices are rarely designed with low resource settings in mind. As a result, more than 80% of them fail within the first 6 months of deployment and others are abandoned because of the prohibitive cost of necessary consumables for the equipment (Malkin 2007). However, healthcare workers in the developing world do not abandon their patients just because the appropriate equipment is not available. At the frontlines of healthcare, these medical professionals are inventing “MacGuyvered” solutions to save lives.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We make erector sets for medical technology. Our solution is a series of medical device invention kits – MEDIKit – Medical Education Design and Invention Kits. The core impact of this project stems from developing the design kits as a platform technology. Modular components allow medical professionals to design their own appropriate solutions that are more useful and sustainable to physicians and patients. Given the appropriate tools and the right context set by the course, MEDIKit users are empowered to innovate and address the unique challenges in their work environment. The MEDIKits span six areas of technology: drug delivery, diagnostics, microfluidics, prosthetics, vital signs and surgical devices. The kits contain a combination of medical device parts coded with a language of design, platform technologies that can be adapted, such as handheld microscopes, and materials to build and modify devices.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In 2011, 12 MEDIKits were distributed in three different cities among 30 different medical professionals in Nicaragua. One of the recipients, Alicia, is a nurse working at a small health clinic in Jicarito, Nicaragua. Two mountains and 1.5 hours from the nearest hospital. Alicia provides basic care for up to 30 patients daily. She does this in a clinic without electricity or running water. For Alicia, on-the-job-improvisation is not an option, it is a necessity. However, she is far from an engineer and does not know how to build many new solutions. We want to break the barriers for every day inventors to become world class medical innovators in the developing world. We gave Alicia a Drug Delivery MEDIKit on a Saturday and by Monday she developed two inventions fabricated from the component parts in her kit. Her inventions included a foot-powered nebulizer with a filter system and a pediatric mask from a plastic Sprite bottle. Alicia was already an innovator in global health – but with modular building blocks made from locally available materials, the MEDIKit allowed her to design lasting and sustainable solutions. Alicia is already saving lives in her small clinic with these inventions. When kids arrive in the midst of an asthma attack – Alicia can now treat them immediately with the foot-powered nebulizer and mask instead of sending them to the unreachable hospital. Beyond the design and distribution of the MEDIKits, our role is to create a global community of users who can easily share designs with other health care professionals around the world.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The MEDIKits are a unique solution to global health challenges. They are integrate the two growing fields of DIY/Maker Kits, which have a larger presence in the US and European markets, and the global health technology space, which has become one of the most popular programs at US universities. Some global health technology programs at these universities that address improved maintenance training as a means of improving health technology access. We believe that medical professionals in these countries need an opportunity to move beyond maintenance training to improve their own healthcare systems. There is an opportunity to harness the inventive and entrepreneurial energy of these healthcare workers and engage them in the actual design of technology.

Founding Story

In Nicaragua, we met a nurse, Eljia, who found a brilliant solution to fix the broken diaphragm on her stethoscope. Lacking the correct replacement part, she searched around the clinic, testing different materials until she eventually discovered that she could use transparent overhead projection slides as a substitute for the broken diaphragm. She was very hesitant to tell us about her idea because she was ashamed about the circumstances that made improvisation necessary. In fact, the replacement part still had the Sharpie markings of whatever lesson had been given that day on that slide. We commended her for her creative solution, but it took some time before she agreed to let us take a picture of her with her stethoscope. We realized that with a few simple tools, a community of inventors, like Eljia, could be empowered to develop and share their innovations.
About You
About You
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About Your Organization
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Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, MD

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Equity.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

The goal of MEDIKit is to democratize medical technology design and invention by empowering medical professionals in developing countries to develop their own medical device solutions. We aim to do this through the use of invention kits that allow nurses and physicians to seamlessly move from an idea to a prototype of a technology solution. We understand that the most innovative and game changing solutions come when ideas are shared between people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. To this end, the MEDIKits use a common language of design that enables users to share ideas and prototypes by simply describing the colors and shapes used to build.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

In July of 2009, we held a pilot program of MEDIKit in Nicaragua to identify lead user activity and analyze the appropriate environment and toolset to enable innovative behavior in clinical settings worldwide. The pilot program consisted of the following: a) clinical visits to understand how doctors and nurses are improvising to provide adequate patient care; b) specific technology demonstrations; and c) three prototyping workshops using the MEDIKit modules. To date, our pilot program has reached 82 nurses, doctors, engineers, and medical students in Managua, Estelí, Ocotal, and Masaya. The majority of the MEDIKit participants are connected via a member based website, H-Lab Managua (, which we use as a collaboration platform. In January and February 2011, we launched the MEDIKit course in Nicaragua, in collaboration with CIES-UNAN, the National School of Public Health in Nicaragua, and CARE. The course was taught to 25 participants in two locations.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

To disseminate medical device inventions from Central America to nurses in Africa – and witness ideation sessions between doctors in South East Asia and in South America. Medical professionals around the world are experiencing the same healthcare challenges with their technology. In 5 years we aim to make MEDIKits the common platform used globally to create and share medical technology inventions. Our vision is to change the mechanism of need-finding from a focus group, disease pull approach to one that creates distributed innovation clusters to take advantage of how people at the front lines of healthcare solve everyday challenges. We will work with medical schools and ministries of health to integrate MEDIKits into common continuing medical education curriculum for doctors and nurses.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

One drawback that we have seen to further product development is the lack of real time communication with MEDIKit users to receive feedback on the kit’s usage and performance as well as outcomes from use. In our current MEDIKit trial in Nicaragua, students have access to a virtual communication center that is three blocks from the hospital and in Ocotal there is a wireless router to increase internet access. Despite this accessible internet connection, MEDIKit participants prefer communicating via phone calls and text messages. To overcome this challenge, we are exploring a communications add-on to the kit which will include a low-cost digital camera and a mobile app. We are also exploring the use of Instructables website as a platform for more advanced MEDIKit users and medical missions.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Distribution of 100 MEDIKits in Central America and documentation of field innovations via localized Instructables website

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Funding and fabrication of 100 MEDIKits

Task 2

Coordinate dissemination through CIES (Nicaragua) and medical mission trips

Task 3

Complete design of Vital Signs and Instrumentation kits and the SMS platform for sharing prototypes

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Establishment of 1 local medical hackerspace in Nicaragua

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Build an online repository of MEDIKit inventions

Task 2

Set-up mentorship program between hackerspace in Nicaragua and MIT engineers in D-Lab Health

Task 3

Plan a local mini-competition amongst nurse and medical staff to kick-off the hacker space

Tell us about your partnerships

We collaborate with the School of Public Health in Nicaragua, CARE International and the International Federation of Rural Surgeons on the dissemination of the MEDIKits. For kit development, we have worked with the Innovations in International Health program at MIT. To further develop the model of DIY-community we are in close conversations with with Make Magazine and Instructables. Recently, we were features in Make Magazine’s Kits Review.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your innovation? If so, where and why?

Key to the success of the MEDIKit project is the identification of lead user behavior. Lead users are members of a user population who anticipate the relatively high benefits from obtaining a solution to their needs. By definition, lead-users are highly likely to use the learnings from the kits to address equipment challenges on the job. To ensure that organizations will uptake these innovation methodologies of MEDIKit, it is imperative to ensure that not only the nurses and technicians, but also the doctors and administrators have access to the MEDIKits.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

Our kits were designed in a nurturing laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with the input of over 20 engineering scholars at MIT. It has been field deployed and tested in Africa, Central and South America. The kits have been constantly redesigned so that they will thrive in formal settings, where limited engineering supply chains highlight the utility of our snap together parts for prototype construction. Moreover, our design for hack philosophy specifically anticipates the moment where invention is accelerated when our users - nurses, surgeons, community healthcare workers – modify the kit itself to create something new.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list