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Medical equipment that is taken for granted in developed nations is out of the reach of billions in the developing world. D-Rev, a nonprofit product development company based in San Francisco, aims to close this gap by designing, developing and distributing radically affordable world-class medical products. This not only improves the health and productivity of the poor, it spurs competitors to introduce more affordable, higher performing products.

For example, D-Rev’s Brilliance Jaundice lamp grew out of an investigation into why jaundice is often under-treated in developing countries. Treatment for newborns is simple; a dose of phototherapy under blue light. However, D-Rev found that 95% of all phototherapy devices evaluated in India and Nigeria did not meet American Academy of Pediatrics standards, often for banal reasons such as power failures or burned out bulbs. D-Rev’s design solution was simple: a lamp with LEDs instead of fluorescents, eliminating the broken bulb problem and lasting sixty times longer for half the power of compact fluorescent bulbs. Given that power is often inconsistent in developing and rural environments, D-Rev designed Brilliance to be run off of a car battery for up to eight hours in the event of outages.

The $80 US ReMotion Knee was created to address the high cost of fitting and maintaining prosthetic limbs. Not only are prosthetics themselves expensive, they need frequent adjustment and can rust and swell, exacerbating the need for ongoing maintenance. The ReMotion Knee was conceived to be as simple and flexible as a natural knee, with a minimum of parts and using a single hinge so that it swings naturally.

Of course, affordability is more than design. Products also need to be distributed efficiently to keep markups and other incremental costs to a minimum. D-Rev addresses this via innovative partnerships with distributors to ensure its products are broadly available at sustainable market terms. For example, D-Rev’s distribution agreements are structured so that that for-profit distributors receive higher margins when they sell devices to hospitals with the greatest social need. The distributors are free to sell to high-end hospitals too, in which case D-Rev receives a larger percentage.