GE Sponsors Research for Innovative Healthcare Ideas in Rural Africa
According to an article published in Bloomberg Businessweek, GE Healthcare teamed up with students from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA to address the challenge of expanding innovations in healthcare in rural Africa.
GE Healthcare sponsored three teams consisting of eight students with majors in transportation, environment, and design to conduct the research. This marked the first time GE has sponsored student research for one of its projects; other companies regularly spend approximately $100,000 to sponsor students. The teams developed half a dozen prototypes for the project that provided GE with innovative insight into the issue of accessible health care in rural Africa. The prototype concepts included:
- Non-invasive Malaria scanners
- An ultra-sound blanket that doesn’t require expert precision with a probe
- Personalized mosquito nets
- A radio bracelet that alerts midwives when pregnant women are in trouble
- A dirigible (blimp-like aircraft) to carry patients from remote areas to hospitals
- Floating clinics powered by river currents
GE’s goal was to develop user-friendly medical equipment to be used in rural Africa that doesn’t require an expert technician to operate. GE Healthcare’s Lou Lenzi, general manager of global design, told Bloomberg Businessweek that the focus needs to shift from a "feeds and speeds" approach in healthcare equipment to one that focuses on the human side, including everything from ergonomics to emotions.
The teams also suggested using traditional African designs (i.e., earthy tones, beaded bracelets) to make the products and incorporating African words to make the equipment feel less foreign. The ideas for the prototypes stretched the imagination, which is exactly what GE wanted from the project, and provided the company with a fresh perspective.
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