Obz Design: Overcoming Design Roadblocks to Tackle Anemia

Obz Design is a non-profit organization focused on improving healthcare through revolutionary medical devices and data-based solutions. The organization is passionate about harnessing engineering and technology to create medical breakthroughs around the globe. Obz is especially interested in collaborating with healthcare professionals in developing nations. Working to bring medical devices to foreign nations is difficult and when the country is lacking resources, engineering ingenuity is especially important to understand needs, create specialized designs and deploy sustainable, long-term medical devices.

With experience in Africa and Latin America, Obz Design CEO and Founder James Fox has a wealth of knowledge about medical device development and a first-hand understanding of how to succeed despite lean resources. Previously, Fox has created solutions for infant apnea and a phototherapy blanket to treat jaundice. Now Fox and Obz Design are poised to take on anemia, which affects 2 billion people and causes 1 million deaths annually.

Anemia is caused by malnutrition and is most dangerous for children and pregnant women. Sadly, despite these daunting stats, the malady is completely preventable. “We’ve seen children suffering from malnutrition and anemia. It’s heart-wrenching and so avoidable,” Fox said. Obz Design is working to develop a better diagnostic tool that will effectively detect anemia in the field and improve responsiveness from medical professionals.

SOLIDWORKS has been valuable for us from an early stage,” Fox stated. “We have used the software for technical communication – sharing renderings of the device and 3D-printed mock-ups made from SOLIDWORKS models during user research in Nicaragua. As we iterate on the design, SOLIDWORKS allows us to rapidly make changes to our models.”

Having the ability to communicate with medical professionals in developing countries during user studies is critical for creating a device that best suits the end user and complies with regulatory requirements and local law. “Doctors, nurses, and patients are supporting us in making this device because we have been able to effectively communicate the idea and get feedback from those key stakeholders. SOLIDWORKS has been a tremendous tool for us in this process,” Fox said.

Having a way to visualize designs is critical for overcoming some communication obstacles. The saying “pictures are worth a thousand words” rings true here. Fox continued, “Language and cultural barriers are challenges. We communicate more effectively when we have a model to see or hold, and when we can make changes to a design on the fly.”

When dealing with developing nations or remote areas, resources and sustainability must be a major consideration for long-term use. If a necessary resource is scarce, the device is going to have a short shelf life. “To be successful in resource-constrained environments, we first focus on clearly understanding what is required,” Fox stated. “We spend a lot of time in these environments observing users and patients. We carefully establish design and performance requirements, and repeatedly test our assumptions in the field.”

Similarly, if it cannot stand up to local conditions or maintenance options, the device will not achieve its intended purpose. If a medical device cannot be easily serviced by a non-expert, it will meet a quick obsolescence. “We know we need a product that is faster, less expensive, and just as accurate,” Fox stated. “However, it also has to be durable and easy for anyone to use.”

Fortunately for those fighting anemia, Obz has the experience to successfully fight this condition, and Fox is completely dedicated. “For us, it is about defining the problem, equipping the team with the right tools, and execution. We have an outstanding product development team that is working to meet this challenge.”

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Mike Fearon

Mike Fearon

Senior Manager Brand Offer Marketing, Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS. Video game world champion and whisky advocate. I like turtles.