Don’t you give up on me now!
I’m not a doctor. I get woozy when I hear the theme from Scrubs. But this was too good an innovation not to share.
Gravity fed intravenous (IV) dip is an important method of administering medications and fluids to patients. IV infusions are one of the most common medical procedures throughout the world. Unfortunately, there are areas and circumstances where elaborate equipment is not available.
For gravity drip, medical professionals will place the bag above the level of the patient and use a clamp on the IV tubing to adjust the rate. A drip chamber is a clear cylinder which prevents air from joining the liquid on its way into the patient’s blood stream, which can be fatal. This same drip chamber allows the medical professional to estimate the flow rate of the intravenous fluid. This can be a slow and inaccurate way of estimating flow.
Good to the last drop
DripAssist (pictured) is an affordable and simple way to monitor IV flow rates from startup medical equipment supplier Shift Labs. It costs only $350 vs thousands for a conventional IV pump. It clips onto the drip chamber and optically counts the drips as they go by, with a reported error rate of less than 1%, which is negligible. It runs off a AA battery for up to 360 hours and can sound an alert if the drip wanders out of the correct range, such as when the bag is empty.
So what’s the innovation here? Isn’t this just a conventional IV drip monitor made smaller? Well, yes it is and yes, that’s innovative.
For the longest time I have been involved in IT support. I remember when LCD monitors began replacing CRT screens. For the same size, LCD monitors were far lighter, but manufacturers made the monitor stands absurdly heavy. Perhaps the manufacturers thought we’d feel ripped off if the monitor didn’t have sufficient avoirdupois.
Sometimes new technologies allow for the scale (size, weight, or some other parameter) of a device to change, but we get accustomed to a form factor and put up with it as is.
What’s the point of making a ten pound IV monitor five pounds when it still needs a stand which weighs ten pounds? But follow this line of thinking further (Principle 35 – Parameter Change) and it the question becomes, “What if we made it so small it doesn’t need a stand at all?” The result was a monitor so negligible in weight that it can just clip onto the drip chamber.
That changes the whole ballgame. Now the form factor is handheld, low power and inexpensive – all from the decision to make it as small as modern componentry allows.