Can Toys Decrease the Cost of Health Care Devices?

May 30, 2013
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What may be a new and disruptive technology in healthcare is being studied and developed at the MIT Little Devices Laboratory, part of the International Innovations and Health Group.

Currently medical devices are very expensive for a variety of reasons: research and development, patent licenses, marketing cost, government regulations and more. Our current development cycle does little to reduce the cost of such devices.

What may be a new and disruptive technology in healthcare is being studied and developed at the MIT Little Devices Laboratory, part of the International Innovations and Health Group.

Currently medical devices are very expensive for a variety of reasons: research and development, patent licenses, marketing cost, government regulations and more. Our current development cycle does little to reduce the cost of such devices.

MIT sells a Medikit (Medical Education Design Invention Kits), a Do-It-Yourself medical device kit designed to foster innovation and creativity with all the pieces to assemble a medical device.

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The devices are assembled from a variety of Lego parts, the internal workings of other toys with electronic parts, LEDs, and more.

By demystifying medical technology and providing appropriate tools and materials, MEDIKit enables healthcare professionals to develop their own solutions. As an innovation in international health it provides affordable medical devices for patients who would otherwise have nothing.

Medical Devices Are Not Toying Around 

The term DIY Medical Device might conjure images of a FDA nightmare in the minds of most. But in a time when healthcare costs are increasing globally, Jose Gomez-Marquez, director of the Director of the IIH (Innovations in International Health) Lab at MIT, has embraced the idea by heading up MIT’s Little Devices group, dedicated to design, invention, and policy toward DIY health technologies.

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Created with the healthcare needs of the developing world in mind, the MEDIKit (Medical Education Design and Invention Kit) allows medical professionals to design their own medical devices using easy-to-assemble modular components. The MEDIKit allows users to customize and quickly assemble medical devices that address the challenges of work environments in many developing nations.

Right now the MEDIKits span six areas: drug delivery, diagnostics, microfluidics, prosthetics, vital signs, and surgical devices. Each kit contains a platform with a combination of medical device parts that can be adapted and assembled into various functions like LEGOs. In fact, many of the Little Devices group’s many still developing projects revolve around reconfiguring and finding new uses for cheap, readily available products (like toys).

Watch this video about fluidics, diagnostics and more, using inexpensive materials such as paper to test for Anemia, Dengue, Protein Content, and routine laboratory testing.