The Low-Cost Medical Devices That Are Making A Difference

Health care is expensive. Scientists want to change that.

The Low-Cost Medical Devices That Are Making A Difference
Darko Stojanovic / CC0

Health care often comes at a steep price, but some scientists want to change that by developing cheap alternatives to expensive medical tests and equipment.

Researchers are harnessing sunlight to make low-cost medical devices. Solar Ear created a solar-powered hearing aid for children in developing countries that costs about $100 and can last up to three years. Some 20,000 people use Solar Ear's hearing aids.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed SolarClave, a solar-powered autoclave that uses sunlight to sterilize medical equipment in remote clinics. The device is currently being tested in Nicaragua.

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Other researchers want to turn your smartphone into a hand-held medical device. MobiSante created a small ultrasound that can attach to your smartphone. The device has been used in developing countries, military settings and even on Mount Everest.

Similarly, researchers developed a microscope attachment for smartphone cameras to help spot bacteria and viruses.

And because most hospitals can't afford robots, researchers created FlexDex, a tool that mounts to a surgeon's arm to help perform precise medical procedures, such as making small incisions and stitching. The device gives doctors some of the same capabilities as a $2 million robotic system.