Prana Ventilator Splitter
By : Abhi G, Zach M, Akash G, Aiden W, Mercedes S, Peipei L
GRANDS PRIX DU DESIGN – 15th edition
Discipline : Student
Categories : Students work / Student - Industrial Design / Product / Furniture : Silver Certification, Platinum Winner
"The availability of ventilators is a luxury we only dream about."
"We have had patients deteriorate just because we couldn't access… various ventilation accessories."
"Let's save lives my friends. EVERY LIFE MATTERS."
These are quotes pulled from an email sent to the Prana team by Dr. Alfred Jacob Aidoo, an anesthesiology resident at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Ghana.
Fewer than 2,000 working ventilators serve millions of people across 41 countries in Africa, compared to over 170,000 in the US alone (NYT, Apr 2020). Prana is a medical device that allows up to four patients to share a single hospital ventilator safely when resource-constrained hospitals are overwhelmed with patient loads.
"After we spoke with Dr. Aidoo, an anesthesiology resident at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana, we were disheartened to hear that patients were turned away due to a lack of ventilators at the facility. These patients either return to the hospital needing critical medical intervention since their conditions escalate, or they end up losing their lives. If we can split ventilators at the preventative stage, we can avoid patients needing critical care and further straining hospital resources, which allows them to save lives.” said Abhi Ghavalkar, Master of Design candidate at UC Berkeley, and co-founder of Prana.
The team interviewed over 60 medical experts (including pulmonologists, anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists, biomedical engineers, and physicians) in Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, India, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, and the US and learned that in many regions, hospitals are overwhelmed due to a lack of ventilators. Nigeria has 169 ventilators, Ghana has 200, and countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Sierra Leona, and Malawi have fewer than 20 ventilators each. The Prana team estimates that Africa needs between 700,000 to 1.4 million ventilators to address this inequity. Hospitals primarily rely on donated devices; however, these quickly go out of service due to a lack of spare parts and maintenance. Prana's ventilator splitter would allow an additional 670,000 (approximate) patients to be treated in Africa each year.
Prana's clever design leverages off-the-shelf, medical-grade parts that plug into each other and connect to the main ventilator unit through a unique four-way splitter. All the components are housed in an enclosure that facilitates rapid assembly and disassembly of parts for maintenance and sterilization. Prana also comes with a centralized dashboard where four patients can be monitored simultaneously using a set of sensors connected to audio-visual alarms, and their individual airflow can be adjusted. Prana harnesses existing ventilator technology by simply plugging into the machine and supporting four patients using one device. A set of valves and filters also prevents cross-contamination between patients sharing the device. The splitter costs less than $1,000 for four patients, compared to traditional ventilators that cost $17,000 for only one patient as per sources in Ghana & Uganda.
Prana is a potent addition to national or regional stockpiles for pandemics, natural or manmade disasters, and resource-constrained regions. The ventilator splitter supports hospitals in crises by equipping them with the capacity to serve overwhelming patient loads without compromising safety, quality, or user experience, making access to healthcare resources affordable for those who need it most.