More Student Innovation and the Healthcare Reform Debate

MediDome, designed by a British student, is used for subcutaneous or intramuscular injection, senses the presence of blood and halts the injection.

College students are coming up with some amazing ideas — last week we covered news about the vaccination scheduling tool from Georgia Tech, and this week I read about a 21-year old British student from Northumbria University who has designed a unique injection device called the MediDome.

The design of the device is meant to be visually less threatening to kids. It’s cute — kind of like a bubble Band-Aid that adheres to the skin above the intended injection site. But it’s the safety features that are impressive. MediDome, which is used for subcutaneous or intramuscular injection, senses the presence of blood and halts the injection. The device also has a single use design, and cannot be used again after injection has occurred. The reservoir is pre-filled, and the device color coded for drug identification. And the peel-off adhesive changes color if the device has been compromised.

I don’t know if the “cute factor” will be long-lived after children experience a needle stick (however quick it might be) or if the adhesive is stubborn and makes device removal from the skin difficult. My daughter will do just about anything to avoid a Band-Aid or surgical tape, because what goes on must come off. Even with those potential negatives in mind, the MediDome is still in my mind a great attempt to remediate some of the universal problems with injections. We’ll see if it eventually shows up States side.

Also continuing with another idea from recent blog entries, I’ve been running into people right and left — school teachers, for the most part – who are completely unaware of the state of our healthcare system. I teach ELL (English Language Learners) students in my “spare” time, and have subsequently been attending classes on diversity. In filing out diversity questionnaires, several teachers in those classes rated US healthcare as the best among developed countries, and had never even heard of SCHIP.

Oy. There has to be a better way out there for public enlightenment. MSNBC isn’t catching their attention.

And yet healthcare reform has been the topic of every other medical blog I’ve read in recent weeks. Perhaps it is the result of the upcoming election and a visible shift in the public’s political will to get the problems addressed. Obama apparently cinched the Democratic nomination tonight, and we can all look forward to a war of words between Obama and McCain until November regarding how that reform should happen.

How those problems should be addressed is contentious, not just among politicians, but doctors. When I attended the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) conference in Atlanta a couple of years ago, P4P (pay for performance), for example, was getting a fairly nasty rap. Would measurement improve healthcare? Perhaps it would behoove us to take a closer look at No Child Left Behind for answers to that question.

Regardless, benevolence on behalf of pediatricians is becoming more and more necessary for many children to get care. Equally scary is the possibility that the broken system we’re currently working under remains too economically powerful for the next administration and Congress, under either major political party, to implement meaningful change.

I also don’t mean to suggest that we are the only developed country having this conversation now. The NHS Blog Doctor is all over the state of healthcare in Britain (and is pretty spicy in stating his opinion), and my colleagues in Canada repeatedly express dismay in the length of time they wait to see a specialist.

Privatized medicine looks good from the socialized side of the fence, and vice versa. What do you think the future holds?