Our HandHero team formed during a course at Stanford called Design for Extreme Affordability. We partnered with ReSurge International, a non-profit that provides reconstructive surgery around the globe, and we traveled to Nepal in April 2014 to begin the design process. There, we discovered that over 50% of Nepal, and of the developing world, still uses open fires for cooking, cleaning, and lighting their homes. Flame accidents are extremely common, particularly in babies and women, and can result in devastating life-long disability if not properly treated. Proper treatment includes surgery followed by long-term physical therapy. While ReSurge provides surgeries to patients, HandHero aims to fill the current gap in splinting and physical therapy to ensure better outcomes and extend healthcare resources to more patients.
The HandHero splint fulfills a pressing existing need not only in Nepal, but also holds the potential to make physical therapy accessible to millions of burn patients worldwide. While third degree burn injuries require surgery, they additionally require long-term physical therapy – a key step that is often inaccessible. Currently, many patients never have the chance to see a physical therapist and return home after surgery with few instructions for follow-up. Without proper splinting, aggressive scar tissue will re-contract hands and limbs, rendering the previous operation useless. Surgeons and NGOs are spending critical resources on repeated surgeries for re-contractures that could easily be avoided with proper physical therapy. HandHero provides the preventative therapy at under 10% of the cost of surgery, enabling hospitals and NGOs to extend their resources to reach even more patients, and empowering patients to take their treatment into their own hands.
HandHero is an innovative, low-cost medical device that prevents contracture for post-surgery burn patients with hand injuries. It is an orthotic device that is worn by the patient for six months to one year after surgery, and is progressively straightened by the patient at home until full range of motion is achieved, requiring minimal in-person visits with a physical therapist. We’ve created this device for use in settings where trained physical therapists either do not exist, or cannot easily be reached by patients. We began working in Nepal, where, for a population of 28 million, there are only 600 physiotherapists, most of whom are not well-equipped for hand therapy, have expensive fees, and can only be found in the capital, Kathmandu, hours or days away from most rural burn patients. The HandHero is ultimately targeted to a large portion (approximately 50%) of the 11 million people each year in developing countries who suffer burn injuries on the hands.