A recent peer-reviewed study (Arnolda et al., PLOS One, 2018) summarizes the results of a two-year side-by-side comparison of phototherapy performance between single- and double-sided devices conducted at Danang Women and Children's Hospital in Vietnam. Compared to the GE Lullaby overhead phototherapy device, Firefly showed 54% increase in the hourly rate of bilirubin (TSB) reduction, and an overall 21% decrease in newborn treatment time.
A conventional overhead LED phototherapy device takes roughly three days to treat newborn jaundice. During that time, the hospital has to pay for staff time and consumables related to the newborn’s stay. These healthcare system costs amount to roughly $15 per day. A small hospital with a single phototherapy device that treats 100 jaundiced newborns a year will spend $4,500 on health care system costs.
Firefly is designed to provide double the light intensity of conventional overhead phototherapy devices. The side-by-side study showed a reduction in treatment time with Firefly from an average of 65 hours to 51 hours of phototherapy per patient. In other words, Firefly was allowing many newborns to go home with their parents almost full day early. That’s a health care systems savings of $8 per baby, or $800 per year for a typical small hospital in a low-resource country.
The key point is that healthcare system costs over the life of the device can be much more significant than the device’s purchase price. In social impact design, “cheaper has a floor but better has no ceiling.” An inexpensive, “value-engineered” phototherapy device may be cheaper up front than investing in Firefly, but the overall savings from a better device are enormous. We see savings of a similar magnitude from the way Firefly’s single-infant bassinet reduces the incidence of hospital-acquired infection, and the way Firefly’s higher-intensity lights reduce the need for exchange transfusions (an expensive and dangerous second-line treatment for severe jaundice).