How Do You Design a Medical Gadget That Costs 95 Percent Less Than Before?

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration classifies an endoscope as a Class II medical device, but technically it’s just a long plastic tube with a light and camera at the end. Doctors use them to diagnose and treat diseases without requiring invasive surgery and they can cure problems quickly and with very little pain — if the patient has access to a clinic that can afford their $50,000 dollar price tag. A San Francisco company called EvoTech is developing an endoscope called the EvoCam that is substantially equivalent in terms of functionality, but costs a mere $2,500 dollars.

Moshe Zilversmit is a co-founder of EvoTech, holds a degree in biomedical engineering, and has worked on medical devices that treat ovarian cancer, heart disease, and emphysema. He understood the technical challenges and market realities of the medical field, but was looking for a way to bring his innovations to people who otherwise couldn’t access them.

Zilversmit found the perfect opportunity when his doctor cousin shared his experiences working for Medicine for Humanity. He learned that women in Africa and India would suffer from fistulas, a complication of pregnancy that can leave women incontinent, permanently disabled, or dead if not treated properly. Endoscopes could diagnose and treat the problem easily, but often the only clinics that had them were hours away, required patients to wait days for appointments, and carried crushing costs. “I wanted to be an engineer with Doctors Without Borders, but they didn’t have a program like that,” he says. “So I went out and did it on my own.”

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