Transportable gynecological bed

Transportable gynecological bed

rural El Salvador, El SalvadorSan Salvador, El Salvador
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

We have developed a transportable, light-weight gynecological bed made from inexpensive and local materials for use in remote and rural settings.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In El Salvador, teams of healthcare providers travel long distances to provide cervical cancer screening and treatment services to the rural areas of the country that do not have health clinics. Providers carry their equipment, including two N20 tanks that weigh approximately 25lbs each. These tanks are awkward and difficult to grasp because of their cylindrical shape and lack of handle. As a result, providers either roll the gear on a dolly-like structure, or bear the weight on their own head—all of which prove unfeasible in remote, mountainous areas. When the teams finally reach their destination, they perform cervical cancer screening exams on school desks and beds in private homes. These non-traditional facilities are often poorly lit and provide little privacy and comfort for women.

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

We have developed a transportable, light-weight gynecological bed made from inexpensive, local materials. The design offers a surface (vinyl) and frame (scrap metal, inner tubes) made out of washable material and can be cleaned after every use. The bed can be worn as a backpack and is outfitted with several carrying pouches for two gas tanks and other supplies such as speculum. It has adjustable stirrups to account for women’s variability in leg length and to allow for easier visualization of the cervix for the provider. This design is intentionally simple and low-tech, but this does not mean it lacks in any aspect of functionality. On the contrary, this sustainable and appropriate design lends itself to uncomplicated repairs with hand tools. This bed will not become an irreparable piece of medical equipment; if any component breaks or needs replacement, all repair materials can be sourced locally and a repair can be completed in a timely manner.
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 the rural areas of El Salvador and throughout the developing world, many women live in remote villages that do not have nearby access to health clinics. As a result, providers travel to these communities to deliver health services. In 2008, Dr. Rodriguez was working for the Ministry of Health of El Salvador and traveled nearly 3 hours by car and then 30 minutes by foot to reach the rural town of Bajo Lempa. By the time she arrived there was a line of 30 women waiting for screening, and it took nearly an hour to set up a screening station. Unfortunately, she could only provide services to half of the women because she needed to begin her trek home before dark. Dr. Rodriguez helped test the first prototype of the transportable gynecological bed in Suchitoto, El Salvador, in 2009. She was able to screen 32 women in the four hours it took her to screen 15 in the rural area. This innovation solution helped decrease the time it took to trek from her car to the “clinic” site, and the ability to adequately conduct the exam. We envision this bed to help significantly increase cervical cancer screening capacity in El Salvador, leading to a decrease in cervical cancer incidence and mortality.

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

Folding massage tables are the closest competition, range from $100 – 800 and are extremely bulky, if portable at all. Our current prototype can be produced for approximately $30.We are fortunate that no true competitors exist, especially one which offers a solution that can be constructed, assembled and repaired in-country. As an essential parameter of our design process, it not only makes this design more applicable in low-resources settings, but it also taps into an often overlooked market- governments and non-profits providing health services to rural areas. There is a vast market in developing countries for such cost-effective, simplistic designs. We seek to develop a low-cost product that can be sold in abundance rather than selling fewer products at a higher cost.

Founding Story

This problem was identified in 2009 by a Hampshire College student who had the opportunity to accompany Salvadoran clinicians conducting cervical cancer screening campaigns in rural El Salvador. She was astonished to find that women were screened in darkly lit bedrooms of their neighbor’s hut, sometimes on bloody sheets, or on top of two school desks pushed together in a classroom lacking electricity. The beds were too low for clinicians to conduct a gynecological exam, while the desks were too high. She saw the passion from the healthcare providers in El Salvador trying to best provide services to their constituents, and how hard it was with limited resources. She knew she had to do something. When she returned from her trip she began a design project through Hampshire College’s design center, which has included over 10 students in an appropriate technology design class.
About You
Basic Health International
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Basic Health International

Organization Country

, San Salvador

Country where this project is creating social impact

, rural El Salvador

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

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

Access, Cost, Quality.

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

The goals of this project are twofold; (1) to provide a comfortable, safe and sanitary examination bed for women who undergo a gynecological examination in rural locations, and (2) increase the portability of bed and treatment. By better integrating these two components we address overarching issues such as resource scarcity and lack of medical infrastructure in rural communities in the developing world.

This design creates a streamline method by which rural medial workers can implement their life saving screening and treatment services. Ultimately, we plan to see this project to fruition, with the creation of a design that can be adapted and applied to other countries experiencing similar barriers to providing health care.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

To date, over 80 women have been examined on various prototypes. Our field testing results revealed that women had a comfortable experience with the bed. Practitioners were similarly impressed by the portability of the structure. As with all new designs, particularly those that function under such stringent parameters, our process is iterative. In terms of application of the design, we are still in the midst of product testing. This includes performing several structure analyses on the current prototype and solidifying a final design that is acceptable for both women and physicians. The next test will occur in Spring 2012 in El Salvador. The purpose of this testing is to ensure that our design is complying with the needs of the community. Testing includes gaining feedback from both practitioners and patients. It is important that our design remain light-weight, portable, and easily assembled, but maintain a high level of user acceptability.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

Create a language agnostic build manual that will accompany an “assembly kit.” This kit will be accompanied by a build manual- with a step-by-step depiction of the construction technique- and a set of brackets that are to be used in the construction of the bed. By the end of 2012 we plan to have at least 20 beds in circulation in El Salvador. By the end of 2013 we will develop a marketing plan for distribution, outlining how to engage with potential stakeholders. We will devise a business model complete with sliding scale that will adjust the price of our product according to what organizations can afford. It is essential that we make our product affordable to all organizations and in some cases this will include providing our product free of cost.

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

One component of our design -the brackets that are involved in the folding mechanism- are best made using a C & C plasma cutting system or water jet cutter. Once fabricated, these steel brackets are used as a rubric for the remainder the construction process. Currently these brackets are being fabricated in the design facility at Hampshire College. As the demand for this product increases we will need to find an alternate production facility that can accommodate the scale of this project. Local job shops can be contracted this work but we would also like to look into collaborating or using the facilities of companies that manufacture similar designs like strollers or massage tables.

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

Completed language-agnostic build manual and 20 “assembly kits” to be distributed within El Salvador.

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

Perform testing of final design in El Salvador & complete any final design revisions and solidify distributable design

Task 2

Create build manual

Task 3

Produce 20 “assembly kits”

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Solidify design

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

Distribute assemby kits for use

Task 2

Gather feedback on design performance at El Salvador sites and begin the process of acquiring a design patent.

Task 3

Identify regional (Central America) manufacturing site for brackets

Tell us about your partnerships

This project has been sustained through partnership with Basic Health International (BHI), a non-profit organization with a mission to eradicate cervical cancer in Latin America & the Caribbean. BHI is committed to providing funds to support this project through patent and developing a business plan for distribution.

In addition, this project has been supported by grants from the following Hampshire College funds: The Denice O’neill Scholarship fund, Tara Nelson Award Fund, The Social Venture Fund

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


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

This design project is unique in that individual involvement has spurred from an interest in creating cost-effected and highly influential solutions for low resource communities. It is with this dedicated and thoughtful core group that this project has continued its progress towards becoming a marketable design that has the potential to influence how health services are administered on a global level.

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