The Ekano concept, created by product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants, is aimed at laparoscopic surgeons in mid-tier and rural hospitals in countries such as India and China.
It was developed in Cambridge Consultants' in-house simulated operating theatre, driven by insights gained from in-depth research in Indian hospitals. A team of the company's product development and human factors engineers visited mid-tier and rural hospitals to observe surgical procedures and interview surgeons, nurses and hospital executives to identify unmet needs and innovation opportunities.
"We collaborated with surgeons and hospitals in India to drive product feature decisions, with the aim of preserving clinical functionality, improving usability and reducing the cost of ownership," said Rahul Sathe, head of surgical innovation for emerging markets at Cambridge Consultants. "With the cost expected to be around a quarter of existing systems, Ekano can be owned by a surgeon rather than bought by a hospital - complementing the existing business model in India of surgeon consultants owning their own practices and rotating around hospitals on a daily basis."
Surgery in emerging markets is strikingly different. In India, for example, mid-tier and rural hospitals are overcrowded and understaffed, and struggle with limited infrastructure - electrical power can go down several times a week. On a daily basis, surgeons use equipment that ranges from brand new to 30 years old - but there's a lack of adequate after-sales training or maintenance support. Surgeons must invest their own money to train on new devices, and then train their nurses and technicians. Hospitals and surgeons seek new products that are easy to learn, use and maintain - and that will enable them to treat more patients, more efficiently, with high-quality, affordable care.
Laparoscopy systems enable surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery via small incisions in the abdomen- reducing patient risk, complications and recovery time. But the sophisticated equipment designed for developed markets is expensive - state-of-the-art systems with 3D cameras and advanced tissue imaging can cost more than £100,000.