Thanks in part to the support of the IDEAS Global Challenge and MIT Public Service Center, we’ve been busy prototyping, testing and talking to patients and prosthetists.
The BETH Project team (Benevolent Technologies for Health) first came together at a MIT H@cking Medicine conference in early 2012, gathering around Asa’s proposal to leverage desktop 3D printing technology to respond to the need of low cost prosthesis in developing countries. Early on we identified that the challenges in providing prosthetic could not be simply solved by reducing device cost and increasing availability. We began to investigate how the system of care was limiting affordable healthcare and mobility solutions for the global population.
A central problem to addressing the developing world was the lack of trained prosthetists, which essentially creates a bottleneck to meeting the demand for prosthetic care. Even today’s most advanced sockets are made using a half-century old iterative artisanal process that can take weeks and requires expensive specialized machinery. The limited labor force in combination with the overhead costs results in care facility consolidation making it even more challenging for patient with limited mobility to access care. The World Health Organization estimates there is a shortage of 40,000 prosthetists in the world today and at the current rate it will take 50 years to train another 17,000. This insight led us to design our solution from the ground up instead of trying to attach our ideas onto the existing fabrication and care paradigm.