A phototherapy device that can be used "wherever there is a baby in need" requires a design approach sensitive to underserved contexts. Heavy, rigid devices that require reliable line power are not appropriate for the poor, rural regions where the mortality from jaundice is highest. The ideal phototherapy device needs to be lightweight and collapsible so it can be easily transported. The main manufacturing process should be something simple, like sewing.
Using commercially available materials and low-energy consuming LED lights keeps costs low and allows battery operation. Arranging the light array in a radial pattern on a reflective surface amplifies light delivery and increase skin exposure.
The first concept prototype was sewn at the kitchen table and dubbed the "Bili-Hut." It was scaled to collapse and fit in a standard shipping tube.
It was important for the Bili-Hut design to have all of its supporting elements enclosed. We simply did not want to risk loss of any of the flexible support rods when the unit was deployed. However, this couldn't come at the expense of stability. The "aha" moment came when seeing a picture of a Conestoga Wagon.
The curved support rods of the wagon cover are angled on the ends. This gives stability front-to-back as well as side-to-side. The next version of the Bili-Hut incorporated this design principle. We were able to create a stable, free-standing device with only three fiberglass rods. Cut-outs were placed on the open ends to accommodate the natural position of the arms when caring for a baby.
The Bili-Hut™ has gone through multiple iterations and is now a working prototype that can meet the requirements for high intensity phototherapy to treat neonatal jaundice as established by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Our next steps for development include user feedback with pilot trials in high-need areas. Our goal is to continue context-driven design improvements to develop a device best suited to these regions.