Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 41, Issue 9, pp 1841–1850 | Cite as

Diffusion of Novel Healthcare Technologies to Resource Poor Settings

  • Robert MalkinEmail author
  • Kim von Oldenburg Beer


A new product has completed clinical trials in a distant, resource poor hospital using a few dozen prototypes. The data looks great. The novel medical device solves a widely felt problem. The next goal is to integrate the device into the country’s healthcare system and spread the device to other countries. But how? In order to be widely used, the device must be manufactured and distributed. One option is to license the intellectual property (IP) to an interested third party, if one can be found. However, it is possible to manage the manufacturing and distribution without licensing. There are at least two common means for manufacturing a novel medical device targeted to resource poor settings: (a) formal (contract) manufacturing and (b) informal (local) manufacturing. There are three primary routes to diffusion of novel medical devices in the developing world: (1) local distributors (2) direct international sales and (3) international donations. Perhaps surprisingly, the least effective mechanism is direct importation through donation. The most successful mechanism, the method used by nearly all working medical devices in resource-poor settings, is the use of contract manufacturing and a local distributor. This article is written for the biomedical innovator and entrepreneur who wishes to make a novel healthcare technology or product available and accessible to healthcare providers and patients in the developing world. There are very few documented cases and little formal research in this area. To this end, this article describes and explores the manufacturing and distribution options in order to provide insights into when and how each can be applied to scale up a novel technology to make a difference in a resource poor setting.


Global health Resource-poor settings World health Bottom of the pyramid 


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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