When team members at D-Rev — a U.S. nonprofit technology company with the mission to improve the health and incomes of people living on less than $4 per day — became interested in the problem of infant jaundice, they initiated a detailed assessment of the phototherapy landscapes in India and Nigeria. From that work, D-Rev confirmed that jaundice was a problem in rural areas, where equipment to treat the condition was virtually nonexistent. But the team discovered that the situation was also problematic in urban hospitals and clinics in those countries. In these settings, phototherapy equipment was typically available, but a full 90 percent of the devices evaluated by D-Rev (in collaboration with Stanford School of Medicine) were ineffective. The vast majority of solutions designed for these low-resource settings failed to meet international quality standards and offered suboptimal performance. Some healthcare providers even relied on homemade solutions that were not only unproductive but dangerous to the infants that they were intended to treat.
To address these challenges, the D-Rev team created a prototype for a jaundice treatment product that it called Brilliance. The new phototherapy solution used a high-intensity LED light source that consumed less power than devices with compact fluorescent bulbs (the current standard) and lasted significantly longer. Early test results also revealed that the technology had the potential to perform on par with or better than state-of-the-art phototherapy equipment. The problem was how to raise the necessary funds and craft a strategy to take Brilliance from a functional prototype to a market-ready product, supported by a viable business. This mini-case study examines the approach that the D-Rev team defined.
This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Krista Donaldson and Jayanth Chakravarthy of D-Rev for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.