Telemedicine device wins Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation

A telemedicine invention called Cardio Pad developed by an engineer from Cameroon has been selected as the winning entry for click to enlargethe 2016 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, according to news reports  (BBC, Forbes, TechTrends, Business in Cameroon).

The winner, 24-year-old Arthur Zang (pictured with a Cardio Pad), who won the £25,000 ($37,000) on offer from the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK,  was awarded his prize at a ceremony in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the 26th of May, 2016. Zang previously won a Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2014 for the device.

The Cardio Pad allows health workers to give heart examinations and take a 12-sensor Electrocardiogram (ECG) and send the results to a heart specialist in a hospital via a mobile phone network. The cardiologist loads the data onto another Cardio Pad and sends back a diagnosis and treatment instructions (see Rolex Award for Enterprise). The BBC reports that the ECG can be interpreted within 20 minutes. The twenty million population of Cameroon is reportedly covered by only 30 to 50 heart surgeons/cardiologists. This results in the need for heart patients to travel long distances to have examinations and the Cardio Pad will hopefully address this issue, cutting down costs and speeding up diagnosis.

The BBC reports that the devices are distributed free to hospitals with the patients paying $29 in annual subscription. The device is reported to be already selling in Gabon, India and Nepal.

The Cardio Pad is produced by Himore Medical Equipment of Cameroon, a company that was started by Zang in 2014 from the creation of the Cardio Pad. It has thus far been manufactured in China, although Zang is reported to be trying to bring the manufacturing into Cameroon. When Zang won the Rolex prize, he had manufactured 10 devices using a government grant and the prize reportedly enabled him to produce 100 devices. A total of about 300 devices have now been produced and the first device is reported to have gone on sale this year for $3,299. It is reported that 20 units were sold in the first week and 43 had been sold by April.

The Rolex Award enabled the development of a more powerful sensor and to increase the  number of sensors from the initial 4 in the prototype to 12 in the final design. The device  is said to have a battery life of 7 hours making it suitable for use in the remote rural  areas. According to the Rolex Award website “the touchscreen device can be operated by  a nurse or technician. Signals from a series of wireless electrodes attached to the  patient enable the device to produce a digitized ECG, which  assesses the heart’s electrical conduction system and measures the rate and regularity  of heartbeats, the size and position of the chambers, and the presence of any damage  to the heart.”

The Africa Prize encourages ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines to apply their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges, highlighting the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development. Crucial commercialisation support is awarded to a shortlist of innovative applicants through a six-month period of training and mentoring.

Following this period of mentorship, finalists will be invited to present at an event held in Africa and a winner will be selected to receive £25,000 along with runners-up, who will each be awarded £10,000.

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