New needs have arisen in the medical field for healthcare practitioners and patients since the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are two ways Brigham Young University alums and professors have stepped up to the plate to make healthcare more convenient and affordable in this time of crisis.
A neonatal ventilator designed by BYU graduate students eight years ago has come in handy during the pandemic.
The ventilator, which originally began as a BYU Engineering Capstone project, is affordable, compact, lightweight, and durable. Initially intended for use with infants in developing countries, it was made to run without power for long stretches of time and designed to be easy to carry, for instance, if traveling via motorcycle down a dirt road to a clinic.
“Those things translated nicely into the COVID situation where you have makeshift locations. So, you can take this ventilator into places where they might not have all the accessibility of the hospital features and put it beside the bed, and it’s fully contained, self-contained, and can ventilate a patient pretty much anywhere,” says Rob Brown, a BYU graduate in ATL technology.
Reengineered as an adult ventilator, the device can now support patients with “pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and other complications caused by COVID-19,” BYU News reported.
NeoNatal Rescue, an organization started by BYU alums, is able to make the ventilators at a significantly lower cost than the current market price. They recently received FDA approval for the product and are working with the World Health Organization, the Department of Defense, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and hospital chains who are interested in the product.
“We harnessed expertise from engineering and medical experts to know exactly how the device needs to function and how you would train users,” said Kindall Palmer, who founded NeoNatal Rescue with his wife, Erica Palmer. “Ventilation is the core treatment for COVID-19, but there’s a severe lack of ventilators, not just in the United States but throughout the world. We hope to be part of the solution.”
Read more about the neonatal ventilator at BYU News.
BYU nursing and technology professors have designed a more affordable, digital, 3D-printed stethoscope to protect healthcare practitioners. This stethoscope makes it possible for doctors and nurses to “listen to the heart and lungs of their patients while standing up to 50 feet away,” BYU News reported.
Most stethoscopes require healthcare practitioners to be in close proximity to their patients, increasing the risk of them contracting and spreading the virus. With face masks and face shields, stethoscopes are also unwieldy to wear. In contrast, the digital stethoscope can be used by connecting to a smartphone, and healthcare workers may listen with Bluetooth earbuds digitally or remotely.
“This digital stethoscope can become a tool for patients to be diagnosed without being in [close] proximity with the physician,” said Chia-Chi Teng, a professor of information technology and cybersecurity at BYU. Although they weren’t designing it for use during the pandemic, the professor said it turned out to be the “perfect application.”
Craig Nuttall, a professor in nursing at BYU, also spoke about the benefits of the digital stethoscope.
“I’ve been using this over the past month as I’ve worked in the emergency department on several patients. I use it on any patient that has COVID-like symptoms. It’s kept us safe and helped us assess our patients more appropriately. The Bluetooth stethoscope and digital stethoscope has existed for a while, but they’ve all been very expensive. This is an inexpensive design, less than $20, and it’s very simple to use.”
Read more about how the digital stethoscope works at BYU News.