As medical students, Dr. Prosper Ahimbisibwe, Menyo Innocent and Kyomuhendo Phyllis were posted upcountry for COBERS (Community Based Education and Research Services). During the program, they were meant to rotate in different departments of the health facilities and have hands-on training in the different medical specialties. It is here that they realized mothers were dying due to complications of pregnancy that went undetected. Whereas most of these complications could be detected early in pregnancy, the facilities did not have ultrasound machines. Some of the reasons from the health workers included; the machines are very expensive, energy-intensive and hard to use.
As a result, in 2017, M-SCAN was birthed and this is their story.
M-SCAN is a low cost, portable and energy-efficient ultrasound device developed to address poor accessibility to ultrasound services especially to mothers in low resource settings. We are two years old and have a working product. With support from UNFPA and a hard-working team, we were able to build our first prototype during the Up Accelerate program.
We carried out a needs assessment on Kalangala island and discovered that the island has a population of over 80,000 people with only one ultrasound machine serving the entire population. The unfortunate bit is that the machine had broken down at the time of our visit. This meant that pregnant mothers have to travel across to the mainland to get an ultrasound scan. This is not only costly, but it is also time-consuming in times of emergencies. With this background, we deployed an M-SCAN ultrasound machine to serve a purpose in addressing the gaps in ultrasound on the island.
In an effort to increase our impact, we are planning a medical camp in Bidi Bidi refugee camp targeting the vulnerable pregnant women, who have no access to ultrasound services.
We are currently testing our business models, with the main model being the direct sale of the devices, where we sell the product directly to the user. We are also building models to support facilities that can’t pay a lump sum figure of the machines.
Whereas we’ve had a fair share of the gifts fortune in the innovation space, we’ve also faced challenges. Some of the challenges include poor acceptability of this new disruptive technology in the health care sector. Through increased impact, we hope to change this narrative. So far, we have scanned 412 pregnant mothers and detected 41 complications. All mothers with complications were referred and intervened early with their lives and those of the babies saved.
The other challenge is the low number of radiographers. It is hard to build a solution yet few people have the knowledge on how to operate it. However, we have partnered with Imaging The World Africa to extend training in the use of ultrasound to front line health workers.
Despite these challenges, we have managed to grow stronger as a team. Whereas many startups find challenges in working together due to differences in ideologies and opinions, the M-SCAN team has learned to deal with these and stick to views that draw to the vision; to be top innovators, designers and developers of low-cost mobile ultrasound devices for pregnant mothers in resource scarce environments.
M-SCAN is a dream come true. For most of us in the medical field, we find the profession one of giving more than receiving, we have found satisfaction and pride in the work we do. Providing a solution that can save both the mother and the fetus is very heartwarming and in turn, we are also using our professions as doctors and radiographers to impact, touch and transform lives.
We believe that M-SCAN will be a multi-billion company. With more money, more impact will be attained, no mother deserves to die in the process of giving birth.
M-SCAN, Save a mother, Save a life