The Dish

OttoClave: Low-Cost Medical Sterilization Via Pressure Cooker

OttoClave = A low-cost sterilization system that incorporates a pressure cooker, pressure sensor, and a talking cycle monitor designed for resource limited rural health clinics around the world.

Up to one in three patients receiving treatment at remote clinics become infected from unsterilized medical instruments. This causes over 20 million preventable infections around the world.

An innovation solution to this problem is OttoClave.

OttoClave strives to build affordable, easy-to-use, and reliable autoclaves for resource limited health clinics around the world. One of the 20 start-ups chosen to present its pitch at Demo Day, OttoClave was founded by Greg Tao and Hallie Sue Cho, who recently graduated from MIT’s mechanical engineering master’s program this year.

Greg had previously worked with another research group at MIT designing low cost medical devices for the developing world where he learned that postoperative infection rates in developing countries are 3 to 10 times higher than in developed countries' hospitals. He came up with the idea of retrofitting a pressure cooker, a common household device found even in rural areas of the developing world, into an autoclave.

During their field trials in Nepal, Greg and Sue learned that the biggest challenge was in getting the health workers into the habit of using autoclaves instead of boiling, which was quicker and easier.

From then on, they focused our efforts in creating a cycle monitor that can talk in any language and tells the users what to do, when to do it, and whether they have done it correctly or not. This effectively decreased the time health workers spent on cleaning instruments because the product alerts the users when their attention is needed and they are free to tend other tasks while the device is running. They also included a tutorial for first time users within the product to standardize training in case the previous user leaves the clinic and a new user needs to be trained onsite.

“Our biggest challenge is that the clinics and health workers who have shown so much excitement for OttoClave have little say in the purchasing decisions made by central government offices,” Sue said. “Working through the bureaucracy to win a government contract has been a slow frustrating process.”

Subsequently, the OttoClave team developed a fleet management service that tracks in real time location and usage rate of the device for governments who were reluctant to buy medical devices for the clinics knowing they will not get used. The team is also currently conducting research to compare patient outcomes for surgeries conducted with tools sterilized with OttoClave vs. cleaned by boiling in water.

“We are currently working with our two manufacturing partners to produce a first production run of 100 units for our pilot,” Hallie said. “We are currently setting up operations in South Asia with the pilot and are currently hiring to expand to South and Central America.”

Their hard work has not gone unnoticed. In fact, last month, they received an official letter of endorsement from the Prime Minister of Nepal.

“Design plays a critical role in making sure OttoClaves actually get used in rural health clinics,” Hallie said. “The text-free UI and multi-lingual speech capabilities not only make the product usable globally, but it also makes it much easier for health workers in rural areas, some of whom are illiterate and have received little formal education, to use it correctly and learn how to use it.”

Want to get involved with OttoClave?

Email The OttoClave team is specifically looking for contacts at primary health centers in rural south and central america and healthcare related non profit organizations. OttoClave is also looking for students or professionals in graphic design, web development, and videography to volunteer their services.

To learn more about this awesome start-up, visit OttoClave.