One of the most stressful moments parents can have is when a young child gets sick and not knowing what is wrong with the little one. Often symptoms of sickness happen in the middle of the night or in weekends when doctors are not readily available leading to even more stress. And nobody wants to sit with a sick child in a full emergency room waiting for a call when it’s your turn.

In comes Higo the digital doctor which you can hold in the palm of your hands; a telemedicine diagnostics device with actual doctors giving their diagnosis from the back office. In a real life scenario when a child wakes up in the middle of the night crying a parent can perform several body exams guided by the device, the data of those exams is sent to doctor’s at the back office who are available 24/7, and they will inform the parents what to do. Which could be recommendations for simple treatments, a medicine prescription to pick up from the pharmacy or an e-referral to go see a particular specialist. All of this can be done from the comfort of home without needing to drag a sick child to an emergency room where there is additional risk of getting in contact with more viruses and bacteria. As a bonus such telemedicine devices can relieve the workload in emergency rooms as there is less need for actual visits if the online doctor has diagnosed that only medication is required for example.    

Higo is an innovation from Horizen which is a start-up accelerator from Warsaw (Poland); Studio Mango was contacted early 2019 if we could execute all the design & engineering work to bring their idea to life. The kicker was that the device had to be realized and certified by a notified body within that same year which is a huge challenge to achieve for any medical device let alone for one that is as innovative as Higo. Studio Mango worked alongside the teams of Higo, the electronics developers and a host of doctor’s through all the design stages, quickly validating Proof Of Concept prototypes and moving to a fully integrated working prototype within a time frame of 9 months. In this “pressure cooker” of design and engineering our team worked on the aesthetic design, ergonomics, optomechanical engineering, integration of electronics, Graphic User Interface (GUI), design for manufacturing, design for assembly, certification procedures and setting up production of the device.

So what makes this device so innovative? Higo brings together 8 different exams in one affordable solution aimed for mass market adaptation; each of these exams had to be clinically validated as doctor’s at the backend of Higo would be making their diagnosis based on the data the devices are sending them. The 8 procedures which can be performed with 5 exchangeable modules are:

  • Ear exam
  • Throat exam
  • Body temperature measurement
  • Lung auscultation (abnormal breath sounds)
  • Abdomen auscultation (abnormal abdomen sounds)
  • Heart rate
  • Skin exam
  • Breath and cough recording

One of the main challenges was cost control as a clinically validated digital otoscope already costs around € 4.000,- and now we had to make a device costing far less and which is able to execute 8 exams. To make this possible everything had to be engineered from the ground up as individual working devices in one kit would be far too expensive to lead to an affordable solution for the average household. A good example of this is putting all electronics in the main device, avoiding the need for 3 different image sensors (camera’s) which are expensive components. But as each of these exams is completely different and require their own unique settings and camera focus a lot of optomechanical engineering, lightguides design and prototyping had to be executed to reach working results.

Another main challenge which had to be tackled is guiding inexperienced users through a medical exam as it was to be expected that users would not see the difference between a correct or incorrect measurement. When starting up Higo users have the choice to do a full examination or only specific ones. The main device automatically identifies which examination module is placed and then guides the user through the examination procedure step by step and validating the correctness of the collected data before sending everything in one package to the doctor. If users chose to do only one particular exam but the doctor in the back office needs more data to make a diagnosis an automatic request will be made to perform additional exams. The Graphic User Interface had to explain and comfort users during the procedures, the GUI designers at Studio Mango closely worked together with Higo’s team, several doctors and focus groups (parents with young children) to design, optimize and validate each task and device feedback.

In collaboration with health insurance companies, Higo will be released in a number of European countries mid 2020, to do pilots and studies. Subsequently the device will be rolled out in the rest of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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