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Greg Tao, founder of OttoClave, shares his story behind OttoClave with Kopernik.
OttoClave began on the principal that it’s a fundamental right to have access to a basic standard of care, no matter where you were born, or how much money your parents have.
Working with medical device manufacturers in the U.S.A., Tao was frustrated that the overwhelming emphasis was on profits. Increasingly expensive and complex devices were created using marginal patient benefits as a means to the end of driving sales. While on the other end of the spectrum, engineers focusing on health solutions for the bottom of the pyramid usually address very real, but niche needs. They create interesting solutions, but the products and services often fail to generate traction outside of the pilot communities. Tao wanted to use his skills to produce something that could benefit a lot of people in a tangible way and that would have a lasting impact. Instrument sterilization was a perfect case for this. Even though it’s a debilitating issue, it was virtually absent from the global health dialogue. An effective solution could have great potential to scale and achieve wide-ranging impact.
OttoClave is the product of two years of design, pilot testing and labor at MIT. After field-testing alpha and beta prototypes, OttoClave has been co-designed with users in India and Nepal, incorporating numerous features. It addresses daily challenges faced in resource-constrained health clinics and provides a solution with a track record of sustained user adoption. Tao’s solution, OttoClave, is a creative take on an autoclave that works by plugging a household pressure cooker into a novel monitoring system. The monitor allows the cooker to talk to health post employees, educating them on sterile procedure, giving them directions during sterilization and providing assurance that medical tools were cleaned properly. It can give instructions in any language and was extremely well received in Nepal, where the only electronics that speak Nepali are the television or radio.
The goal is to make sterilization as simple and convenient as possible. Pressure cookers are safe, unintimidating tools that can sterilize medical equipment as effectively as any steam autoclave. Utilizing pressure cookers also removes dependency on electricity, which can be irregular or absent in remote areas. Any fuel source used to cook or boil water can be used to sterilize instruments. No matter where you go people are cooking their food. If you can cook your food, you can clean your instruments.
OttoClave can virtually eradicate postoperative infections caused from dirty medical instruments. Once established as a solution to instrument sterilization, Greg Tao hopes to attend medical school with the goal of applying his medical and engineering backgrounds to improving health in the developing world through innovation.