Having just returned from a holiday in South Africa, I decided to take a look at some medtech-related news happening throughout the continent. We've previously touched on Africa as a new frontier for medtech, and with high economic growth, there looks to be lots of potential for the medtech world, even if it is considered more of a 10 to 15 year plan for pioneering companies.
Here are a few recent newsworthy items:
- A major limitation faced by many African countries is a lack of quality control laboratories required to test devices for approval. Furthermore, without regulatory systems in neighbouring countries, governments have no relevant framework on which to model their own. South Africa, for example, does not currently have an overarching regulatory framework concerning approval of medical devices other than electro medical devices; however products are encouraged to carry FDA approval or a CE mark. This looks to be evolving somewhat, however, because in April 2014, the country began drafting rules aiming to begin regulating these devices.
- In the face of the ongoing Ebola crisis in Western Africa, teams in Boston underwent a Stop Ebola Hackathon in an effort to come up with innovative, creative and feasible solutions to address the numerous issues stemming from the outbreak. Winners of the event included ProxiMe: a low-cost digital bracelet that monitors patients and alerts healthcare workers worsening conditions, based off vital sign readings. Another winner came up with the idea of an easily assembled Ebola treatment unit that helps offer treatment and support for patients and their families.
- Mobile health companies are also increasingly focusing on the African market, where factors such as large populations, rapid urbanization and emerging diseases make it a target focus for mhealth initiatives.
- From healthcare IT solutions and claims processing platforms to mobile medical insurance and even bicycles, healthcare startups throughout the continent are modifying medtech solutions to best fit the African setting.
- A major issue in the continent is donated medical devices. No longer used by the countries that donate these devices, even in Africa, up to 70 percent of these hand-me-downs remain unused. With this article's scary stats on broken incubators and resorting to lying premature babies on chairs, new innovations such as this inflatable baby incubator show there are life-saving, feasible innovations not too far off in the future.