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Tech Connect

Team Members:
  • Kelly Lacob
  • Maddie Wilson
  • Alison Wong
  • Stacie Zwolski
  • Tigistu Adamu, MD
  • Lindsay Litwin, MSPH
  • Rachel Willardson, MS
  • Robert Malkin, MS, PhD
  • Ed Hutton
  • James Cobey, MD
  • Barclay Stewart, MD
  • Youseph Yazdi, PhD, MBA
  • Soumyadipta Acharya, PhD, MD


For the first time in history more people are dying from a lack of access to safe, essential surgical care than from communicable diseases. The Lancet Commission’s Global Surgery 2030 report and the World Bank report on the importance of surgery in developing countries recently placed this issue at the forefront of the global health agenda. One of the greatest but most underserved barriers to safe surgery is the availability of functional biomedical equipment; it is estimated that 50-70% of all biomedical equipment in developing countries is partially or completely nonfunctional, resulting in approximately a 10% referral or cancellation rate for surgeries.

Tech Connect is a mobile application that provides technicians with the resources they need to ensure that functional surgical equipment is available where and when it is needed most, effectively increasing patient access to safe surgery. There are five main features to Tech Connect: 1) digitized troubleshooting flowcharts that break down the most common problems and associated repairs into manageable steps; 2) skill tutorials for commonly needed mechanical, electrical, and plumbing skills; 3) resource libraries that include generic guides from respected institutions such as the World Health Organization and Engineering World Health as well as references to equipment-specific manuals from manufacturers; 4) a Call an Expert function that connects techs in real-time to product or thematic area experts who can assist them through repairs; and 5) convenient capability to notify hospitals and central medical stores of the need to order spare parts, directly through Tech Connect. Tech Connect also collects data and generates a report every time it is used, providing highly useful information to hospitals, Ministries of Health, and medical device companies that can be used for policy, procurement, and training decisions, among other uses. Our design is backed by ethnographic research as well as data that proves giving technicians access to generalizable skills and informational and human resources can allow them to repair up to 70% of equipment malfunctions.

We have demonstrated proof-of-concept by trialing our MVP with 40 potential end-users in Ethiopia.The response was extremely enthusiastic, suggesting we are moving in the right direction. We also received valuable feedback that will be implemented in future development. Once Tech Connect is finalized, we plan to generate revenue through annual subscriptions to the application, which provides end-users with access to the support services and Ministries of Health, hospitals, and medical device companies with access to the analyzed data. The primary distribution channels will be through university and vocational training institutions, but we can also reach techs already in the field through in-service training workshops.

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