Giving Compass' Take:

• Ahmed Alhitary at Doctors Without Borders discusses how an app that monitors oxygen concentrators can help doctors work more efficiently.

• In what other ways can technology help inform global health, and how can donors support more innovation? 

• Read about how you can make an impact on global health. 

As a biomedical scientist with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF), part of my role is to ensure that oxygen concentrators – which convert the air around us into medical grade oxygen – are always in good working order. They help save lives.

But as the need for medical oxygen grows, maintaining these vital machines becomes more challenging.

The “Internet of things” is the technology that allows everyday objects to be interconnected with a computer.

Our project aims to connect the hospital’s oxygen concentrators to an app, allowing the biomedical team to easily monitor all the concentrators in the different wards of the hospital, and to take action fast if something goes wrong.

The hardware consists of ESP32 Wi-Fi-microcontroller, oxygen sensor, temperature sensor and real-time clock. Hardware like this can be challenging to find of in lots of the places where MSF works (including here in Yemen), but it’s readily available elsewhere.

The sensors gather information such as the concentration of the oxygen, the number of hours the machine has been working, and the temperature of the compressor. This information is passed to the microcontroller and converted into a readable form of data, then sent via Wi-Fi to an application on a laptop.

On the laptop, the data is displayed in a simple dashboard with each of the different values in its own specific feed. The values are updated on the dashboard every eight seconds.

Having this real-time data about an operating oxygen machine will allow us to track its performance online without the need to go and check it physically.

When you have a high number of concentrators inside the hospital, this can save a huge amount of time for the team, which can then be invested in other ways of improving care for our patients.

Having the data will also allow us to be more accurate. For example: the hour-counter tells us exactly how long an oxygen concentrator has been running. And, by tracking this, we can determine when the machine will next need to be serviced.

Having built the prototype, the next step is to test and validate its stability and accuracy in the lab, without being connected to patients.

Read the full article about innovation in global health by Ahmed Alhitary at Doctors Without Borders.