Although its medical standards and access to medical care have improved by leaps and bounds, Thailand is still plagued by limitations when it comes to knowledge development and medical innovation. These constraints necessitate imports of expensive medical devices, which have led to both a financial and disparities in medical care standards.
Therefore, the Faculties of Medicine of three education institutes, namely Khon Kaen University, Chiang Mai University, and Prince of Songkla University, have united to initiate “The One” Project under the slogan “Think Together, Use Together, Develop Together” and taken SCG Chemicals on board to help development plastic innovation for medical purposes. Asst. Prof. Amnat Kitkhuandee, M.D., (neurosurgeon), Faculty Member of the Department of Surgery and Assistant Dean for Research, the Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, explained the objectives of the project as follows.
“We started The One Project three years ago to exchange medical information and experience among doctors of the three institutes. Later, we agreed that we should collaboratively develop medical innovation to reduce reliance on imports and begin with single-use plastic or paper medical materials. Because Prince of Songkla University had previously collaborated with SCG Chemicals, a polymer expert, we believed that they should be able to help us. That’s why we invited to join us in the project.”
After brainstorming sessions between the medical team and Design Catalyst by SCG Chemicals, it was concluded that the first innovation to be developed was “microsurgical operating microscope drapes,” which are put on operating microscopes so that surgeons can touch them without contact with germs. There were several reasons for the decision. The operating microscope drapes need to be sterile because they are used in near contact with organs. Because they can cause harm to patients if they are contaminated, these drapes should be disposed of after one use. Although they are sometimes sterilized and then reused, their safety cannot be guaranteed as there may be tears. In addition to cleanliness, each microscope model requires its own drapes, resulting in a monopoly. Also, because of their high prices, these drapes drive up operation costs.
“We did not want to reuse microscope drapes because of attendant risks of contamination or tears. Therefore, we believed that we should find a way to manufacture them ourselves, so that they became cheaper and could be used with all microscope models.”
Ms. Atcharee Patcharakitti, Product Design Executive of Design Catalyst by SCG Chemicals, the team that played an integral role in product design and material selection, described the process of developing this innovation and told us that medical equipment was more complex and challenging to design that other products. After having received the task from the user, the design team went to observe actual operating rooms to see how the product was used and the issues that occurred as well as talked to medical professionals who were users of operating microscope drapes. The gathered information was then compiled and discussed with doctors at the research department and operating room nurses to determine the desired characteristics of this innovation. This was so that the design and choice of materials could be made in accordance with the needs.
“This device consists of two main components, the lens cover and the drape. The lens cover has been designed to be flexible, durable, and bright in color, while the drape is a large thin transparent plastic bag about 2-3 meters in length. Also, the bag should produce no static cling when opened and should hang down without too much weight pulling it down. In addition, the material must be sterilizable with gamma rays and retain its characteristics when exposed to them. For this bag, we have chosen a material that is produced domestically to ensure proper production and cost management.”
Although the task initially appeared to be a challenge, it was a success because of the cooperation of every party involved. “It was the unity, the willingness to provide all necessary information, and the shared goal of working for the benefits of patients that brought the innovation to fruition.”
Echoing the same sentiment, Asst. Prof. Amnat told us of his impression with this collaboration. “I have seen the great dedication of Design Catalyst by SCG Chemicals. The team went on site to observe and interview real users to obtain all relevant information and has helped us achieve a medical innovation that will give Thai citizens access to standard medical care and greater safety. This success has proven that with close cooperation between the governmental and private sectors and a shared goal for the benefits of the public, Thailand can certainly become sustainably self-sufficient.”
Remark: If your business is looking for a “partnership” on design and material selection for product development to better meet your clients’ needs, please consult Design Catalyst by SCG Chemicals, Tel. +66 258ุ6 4117, visit our website: www.design–catalyst.com, or reach us at our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DesignCatalyst.
Asst. Prof. Amnat Kitkhuandee, M.D., (neurosurgeon), Faculty Member of the Department of Surgery and Assistant Dean for Research, the Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University
“In Thailand, we may have seen medical materials developed for use within specific organizations but not used widely. However, this medical innovation has arisen from a collaboration between several institutes. We have joined forces to produce and test the product and actually use it together. This is one of the best ways to tackle challenges related to medical equipment.”
Ms. Atcharee Patcharakitti, Product Design Executive of Design Catalyst by SCG Chemicals
“This project sets out to develop an innovation that can be used widely across Thailand to ensure that there will be further development. We want feedback from users, so that we can make improvements and develop better versions of the product.”