Call for Partners: Efficient Appliances for Health Clinic Electrification
Appropriately designed, high-quality medical appliances are crucial to ensuring the effectiveness and ultimate health outcomes of investments in clinic electrification. CLASP is preparing to launch a set of activities focused on addressing some of the challenges associated with the deployment of efficient and appropriate medical devices. CLASP aims to develop new partnerships to enable more holistic and long-term actions.
CLASP is a global leader in appliance market development, product evaluation, research, and innovation. CLASP’s wide-ranging programs help to identify and promote the world’s best appliances designed for use in energy-constrained settings, supporting the growth of markets for high-quality, efficient appliance products.
Medical Equipment & Clinic Electrification
In recent years, donors and development agencies have increasingly recognized the importance of the health-energy nexus and have funded a range of new clinic electrification initiatives. The global response to COVID-19 unlocked a significant scale-up in these investments, as donors and multilateral agencies such as the WHO identified access to reliable electricity as an integral component of health system resiliency. But many of these initiatives face an underappreciated challenge: a lack of appropriately designed medical equipment.
Clear, evidence-based guidance on medical equipment should support the development and implementation of clinic electrification efforts, as well as the design and deployment of appropriately sized energy systems that include a basic suite of medical equipment to enable the delivery of basic health services. Unfortunately, such guidance is often unavailable, and commercial markets of energy-constrained appropriate medical equipment are largely non-existent.
Partially due to this mismatch, the WHO estimates that 70% of medical devices in the Global South do not function and remain unused.
Without appropriately designed equipment, clinics struggle to deliver vital services – medical staff struggle to keep vaccines refrigerated, monitor vital signs, access diagnostic tools, and provide lifesaving care.
In 2021, CLASP published a report presenting a preliminary assessment of the technical and commercial barriers to large-scale deployment of medical equipment in energy-constrained clinics, along with actionable recommendations to make progress against these barriers. In doing so, CLASP hoped to raise awareness among donors, policymakers, and industry stakeholders about the opportunity to improve the ultimate health service delivery impacts of clinic electrification through an increased focus on medical equipment.
As the report makes clear, medical equipment presents a unique set of technical and commercial challenges for stakeholders involved with clinic electrification. CLASP’s research identified the following:
- Inappropriate Design: Existing products are highly inefficient, not designed for use in harsh environments, and incompatible with distributed renewable energy systems.
- Technological Complexity: There are more than 2 million different kinds of medical devices on the market; products can deliver the same health service through different physical or chemical processes and with different underlying technology.
- Sectoral Silos: Existing efforts to convene health and energy access communities are nascent and lack the mandate or capacity to engage deeply with medical equipment.
- Lack of Guidance: Equipment lists from national health ministries and international organizations are inconsistent, and not explicitly focused on electrical devices & load design for energy-constrained clinics.
- Donor Priorities: Donor-funded public health initiatives often focus on a narrowly defined health or electrification outcome, which excludes unrelated medical equipment.
- Equipment Dumping: Widespread donations of substandard equipment stunt the development of markets for higher-quality products and inhibit innovation.
- Immature Regulatory Frameworks: Nascent regulatory protocols for medical devices do not address energy requirements, efficiency, or power supply. Performance standards are largely non-existent.
Since the report’s publication, significant additional investment has continued to flow into clinic electrification. Most of that investment has focused on basic lighting, however, with little progress made in addressing the challenges described above.
More recently, leading sector stakeholders have demonstrated greater awareness of this gap:
- The World Health Organization released a seminal report on clinic electrification efforts globally, Energizing Health: Accelerating Electricity Access in Healthcare Facilities, which relied in part on CLASP’s research as a critical resource to bring more evidence around the importance of appropriately designed medical equipment.
- Power for All’s Health Campaign, which CLASP supported, brought together the healthcare and energy sectors to power rural health facilities in underserved regions with distributed clean energy.
- The United States Agency for International Development’s Power Africa launched the Healthcare Electrification and Telecommunication Alliance, which will provide renewable power and internet access for 10,000 health facilities across Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Sustainable Energy for All’s Powering Healthcare program to help address the barriers that are holding back the wide-scale deployment of sustainable power solutions to unelectrified and under-electrified health facilities. Their work includes a small-grants innovation fund to accelerate health facility electrification interventions globally and conducting country-level market assessments to provide up-to-date market intelligence and strategic guidance to close the energy gap in the health sector.
More work, however, is needed to ensure that context-suitable, efficient medical equipment is available to energy-constrained clinics.
CLASP remains committed to supporting the emergence of the next generation of medical appliances and equipment that are appropriate for off- and weak-grid clinical settings.
Improved outcomes are possible with deepened coordination between the health and energy sectors, and a new approach to clinic electrification that incorporates a holistic focus on medical equipment alongside the provision of energy systems.
The CLASP-supported Low Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) Programme, supported by UK aid via Transforming Energy Access (TEA) and the IKEA Foundation is prioritizing this work.
With funding from TEA, CLASP is looking to initiate a series of activities directly addressing some of the major roadblocks, while also developing new partnerships to enable a more holistic and long-term set of actions.
As part of this work, CLASP will be convening a high-level dialogue between sector leaders, including clinical practitioners, to prioritize medical equipment and appliance types critical for the delivery of primary healthcare services to inform follow-on technical innovation, commercial activity, and bulk procurement.
Call to Support this Work
The success of this work relies on collaboration between government bodies, medical institutions, the private sector, and development partners. Join us to learn more about our comprehensive, impactful work to promote appropriate, efficient medical equipment in energy-constrained clinics!
If you are interested in learning more about this work, please contact Siena Hacker at firstname.lastname@example.org.