A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.
by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, Yaoundé
In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.
Save lives In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: “It’s the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It’s an invention that could save numerous human lives”, explains Arthur Zang.
In fact, Cameroon’s thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country’s economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation. Appointments sometimes must be made months in advance, leading to death of some patients.
Hassle of travelling The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.
Arthur Zang explains that the Cardiopad is above all a scientific project. He started his research three years ago and carried out several scientific tests that were validated by the Cameroonian scientific community. “The reliability of the Cardiopad is 97.5%”, he says.
Distance consultation In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.
“The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse’s tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.
Pointing out the differences between the Cardiopad and the classical electrocardiograph, Arthur Zang explains: “The Cardiopad has more functions. With the classical electrocardiograph, the results were usually printed on paper and handed to the cardiologist for interpretation.
It wasn’t possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment”
Accessibility “The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations”, Arthur Zang hopes.
However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country’s remote regions do not have access to electricity. “The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours”, the engineer assures.
He further explains that a prototype and sample of device is already available. “We are currently producing the first units of the device which will be available for hospitals before July”, says the young engineer who is still looking for funding to mass-produce the Cardiopad. “Besides the funding, I am also looking to start a company to help improve the medical care system in Cameroon”, he concludes.
Professor Samuel Kinguè
Professor Samuel Kinguè, who is the head of the cardiology unit of the Yaoundé General Hospital, has tested and endorsed the Cardiopad:
“I have tested the Cardiopad and the results are quite satisfactory. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the primary cause of death in western countries and will soon become a huge concern for African countries as well. Therefore, an invention like the Cardiopad should be supported. It has numerous advantages: it allows distance consultations and can also be adjusted for the treatment of other diseases”.