Doctors as Inventors and Investors

Doctors as Inventors and Investors

Introduction:

The Indian healthcare scenario offers Doctors a challenging environment drawing out the best in them. The scope and range are so diverse that one needs to innovate in the rural milieu, whereas the most modern gadgets are for the asking in the super-speciality hospitals in the metropolises. Notwithstanding this paradox, the doctor-patient relationship is a key factor in the recovery and rehabilitation of patients, where confidence in the treating professional greatly hastens cure and recovery.

Job responsibilities of a doctor:

The basic principles enshrined in the Hippocratic Oath drives the doctor to perform his duties within the periphery of medical ethics. Diagnosing the ailment and finding the right cure and giving extending care during and after the convalescence period is all part of the Doctor’s duties. It is in this context that sometimes a doctor is plunged into despair and helplessness, while seeing a patient suffer for want of a suitable medical device or equipment which stands as a barrier in the way of an effective therapy or cure. In the Indian context, the rising cost of healthcare is an inhibiting factor that prevents many patients from getting treated and forced to live a lifetime in agony. The cure of diseases and the well-being of the patient are paramount in the mind of a doctor. The doctor’s frustration is justified in his failure, urging him to look out for solutions, that has led to many inventions and development of biomedical devices. At times it has become intrinsic to the treatment in general and has come as a boon to a vast multitude of suffering individuals across the world.

Skills and training required:

The interface of medical science and engineering is the core of biomedical devices.  Nevertheless, the contours are not well defined. The entire healthcare eco-system is so well dependent on the bio-medical devices that we take its presence for granted. How many of us can visualize a doctor without a stethoscope? It is no surprise that the device was born more than two hundred years back by the enterprise of Dr Rene Laennec by recalling a simple principle of acoustics while treating a patient. In the world of bio-design and biomedical science, the conceptualization of an idea to commercialization is the amalgamation of multiple patents leading to the final product. However, the most basic devices have resulted from innovations thought out by a doctor, who is frustrated in his attempts to diagnose and treat a patient for want of a particular gadget, which he is convinced about, but not in existence. It is this urge and a missionary zeal to heal a patient, which has resulted in many inventions being brought to the fore. What leads to such inventions? What goes on in the mind of a Doctor? The process can be summarised in a few key steps tabulated below.

  • Grab the Chance: The birth of an idea can leads to a logical conclusion despite all obstacles if the pursuit is unfailing.
  • Chase Passion Zealously: A small brainwave may result in major inventions due to persistence and never giving up on your dream of a dream.
  • Face Adversity Head on: It is the never say die spirit that leads to a successful outcome overcoming the initial setbacks, which are expected in human trials.
  • Aim for the Best: The culmination of a germinating idea in bio-medical devices is to pursue the entrepreneurial instincts to a satisfactory end after suitable tests ensuring quality and efficacy;

Doctors as Inventors and Investors:

A doctor’s contentment lies in the successful treatment of a patient. Many innovations like the stethoscope, the heart-monitor or the pacemaker were the result of brainwaves of doctors willing to experiment with ideas. This further added to the comfort of patients, in turn leading to faster and full recovery, while also making the device affordable. There are examples galore of doctors who did not confine themselves to the OTs and OPDs but continued to pursue a dream passionately and  successfully.

  • Dr Jagdish Chaturvedi: He is an ENT surgeon of repute practising in Bengaluru. His tryst with inventing gadgets began in a rural health centre where lack of endoscopic monitor greatly hampered treatment. He innovated with a contraption of a DSLR camera integrated into the endoscope which gave accurate images on the camera screen. That apart, millions of children have benefited by the extractor invented by him, which helps to remove pebbles, chalk or such foreign bodies from the nose so rampant in childhood. His Sinucare, which is a balloon device to dilate sinuses, is available at Rs.30000 instead of the imported at one costing Rs.1.2 lakhs. He has 18 inventions to his credit which is handled by HiiiH Innovations Pvt. Ltd. set up in 2018.
  • Dr Vishal Rao: As an oncology surgeon with the HCG Hospital in Bengaluru, he performs tracheotomies as a matter of routine. The removal of larynx leads to loss of voice in the patients, where the imported AUM Voice Prosthesis (Artificial Voice Box) as a substitute cost anything between Rs.15000 and 30000. He was moved by the predicament of his patient who could not afford one, and for eight long years, he was voiceless. Dr Rao designed a silicone voice box powered by the individual’s lungs at Rs.50/- and the rest is history, so to say, lending voice to many. He has filed for patents for 14 devices invented by him.
  • Dr Sreenivas Dorasala: After giving up a full-time practice in 2015, he started working on an affordable ergonomic body balance testing device. Because of the prohibitive cost at Rs.20 lakhs, many doctors could not make use of it. Dr Rao’s innovations led to a product at Rs.4.5 lakhs, and 120 such devices are in use nationally.
  • Dr David E Albert: While helping his father recover from a heart attack, he was required to monitor his heart rate. The lack of it prompted him to invent the device to his satisfaction. Having abandoned his medical education unfinished in the last stage, he went on to launch his own company producing his devices. Today, Dr Albert boasts of 30 plus patents licensing it to many world leaders like to the Timex and HP.

Conclusion:

Bio engineering and bio-medical devices are an intrinsic part of healthcare. A single device can comprise multiple patents to give the doctor an edge to the state-of-the-art diagnostic tool or lend a helping hand to the patient to make his life meaningful with affordable gadgets. Most inventions are the outcome of a brainwave by the doctor in his clinic as a necessity to provide succor to the patient, rather than for entrepreneurial pursuits.

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