Frugal Innovation in Medicine

Opportunistic solutions

Clever use of modern, cheap, and avaiable for everyone technologies to tackle “old” problems

An mHealth model to increase clinic attendance for breast symptoms in rural Bangladesh

Community health workers using a smart phone application to guide interview, report data, show motivational video, and offer appointment for women with an abnormal clinical breast exploration, were more efficient and effective in breast health promotion as compared with the control group.

References: Ginsburg OM, Chowdhury M, Wu W, Chowdhury MT, Pal BC, Hasan R, et al. An mHealth model to increase clinic attendance for breast symptoms in rural Bangladesh: can bridging the digital divide help close the cancer divide? The oncologist. 2014;19(2):177-85.

Cell phones to detect malaria

Diagnosing malaria through blood detection can often times be difficult because not many cells in the blood will contain malaria. Different cells respond to surface acoustic waves in different ways. Response to different frequencies is dependent upon elasticity and shape of the cells. Malaria changes the elasticity and shape of red blood cells. Surface acoustic waves are used to sort out the cells infected by malaria from those that aren't. The waves are emitted utilizing a cell phone.



An affordable ambulance service using a sliding price scale that depends on a customer’s ability to pay – the fee is determined by the hospital type selected by the patient.


Peek Vision

A mobile phone–based tool for retinography imaging used in Kenya


Open Hand Project: 3D

3D printed hands. If a part does wear or break, a replacement can simply be printed and it can be replaced. The parts are so cheap that you can even have a handful of spare fingers just in case.


Low-cost 3d-printed prosthetic hand for children with upper-limb differences

Distance fitting procedure for low-cost 3D-printed prosthetic hands for children.

References: Zuniga J, Katsavelis D, Peck J, Stollberg J, Petrykowski M, Carson A, et al. Cyborg beast: a low-cost 3d-printed prosthetic hand for children with upper-limb differences. BMC Res Notes. 2015;8:10.

Sproxil: Combating Counterfeit Drugs with Mobile Phones

Sproxil is a simple Mobile Phone system to identify counterfeit drugs in low-resource countries Consumers simply scratch a label on the drug packaging and text a set of unique numbers to a toll-free phone number to verify if a medicine is authentic. In response, customers immediately receive a text message back that indicates whether or not a drug is legitimate; saying “Yes, genuine” or “No, fake”. If a fake product is found, a consumer is given a hotline number to call in order to report the fake product, and the hotline operators then report it to the appropriate authorities in the country.


SMS to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy

A mobile phone short message service improved antiretroviral treatment adherence and virologic outcomes of patients, in Kenya

References: Lester RT, Ritvo P, Mills EJ, Kariri A, Karanja S, Chung MH, et al. Effects of a mobile phone short message service on antiretroviral treatment adherence in Kenya (WelTel Kenya1): a randomised trial. Lancet. 2010 Nov 27;376(9755):1838-45.


"Any problem can be solved with a little ingenuity"
Mc Gyver

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