A wearable digital device to help patients manage medical drains and catheters has won Wellington design students a top 20 place in the international James Dyson Awards.

The three Victoria University of Wellington design students were first inspired by a team member’s grandmother who suffered severe issues with a surgical drain following a mastectomy. They also had a friend tell them of her father, who had been paralysed in an accident and was having constant grief with his in-dwelling urinary catheter.

Studies show that about 43% of catheter users experienced leakage, 31% suffered urinary tract infections and 24% reported a blockage, which can lead to life-threatening complications such as autonomic dysreflexia.

The team in response developed MEDMO, a smart system that informs the user of a real-time overview of a medical drainage device they use or take care of.

The system is made up of a wireless fluid monitor, a wearable device and an integrated app. The wearable device can be placed anywhere on the body.

The system accurately measures the amount of fluid that has passed through to the collection container and communicates the information visually, as well as by vibration, so that the user can see and feel the notifications on their mobile phone and wearable device. The app displays detailed information retrieved from the wearable device via Bluetooth, including history of notifications, temperatures, fluid levels and battery use.

Team member Ana Morris said the trio hopes MEDMO can be developed into an approved medical product that will help stop people experiencing the pain and side effects of a poorly working drain.

“We hope to help destigmatise medical drains and catheters by making life easier for those who need them.”

They are one of 20 finalists from 27 countries around the world and each of the projects will be presented to designer Sir James Dyson who selects the overall winner and two runner-ups. The prize winner will receive £30,000 and the runner-ups £5,000 to kick-start their product development. All finalists and winners retain full autonomy over their Intellectual Property.

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