As part of an assignment for a summer school course, I was required to elaborate on the link between the science and business aspects of any biological or chemical innovation of my choice. I have seen great creativity and groundbreaking innovations in multiple facets of science: CRISPR Cas9, nanotechnology, palladium catalyzed cross-coupling reactions, and the list goes on when trying to find more efficient ways of enhancing our knowledge of our world as we know it. One area that I have yet to see more innovation in, however, is women’s health. In many areas, women’s healthcare is still reliant on knowledge and technology that has been passed on from centuries before. This is evidently an issue that affects women worldwide as many healthcare protocols are outdated, unreliable, inaccurate, and/or uncomfortable as little research is conducted on (or known of)women. One such technology that most women are familiar with is the speculum, which is used when conducting a pelvic exam to diagnose vaginal and cervical health.
A vaginal speculum is a tool used by physicians during pelvic exams. Made of either metal or plastic, it is shaped like a duck’s bill and has a hinge that allows it to open up when inserted into a vagina during an examination. As each person’s body is different, speculums come in different sizes and styles that are best suitable depending on one’s age and the length and width of their vagina. The speculum may also be warmed or lubricated for easier insertion.
A typical pelvic exam consists of an external and internal examination that takes place over only a few minutes. During the external examination, the physician will inspect the outside of the vagina for irritation, redness, sores, or swelling. Then, the speculum is used for the internal inspection during which the vagina and cervix are examined. A Pap smear may also be performed during a pelvic exam. This internal examination involves a small sample of cells collected from the cervix with a swab, which is then assessed for abnormalities and cervical cancer such as caused by HPV, an infection, a tumour, hormonal changes, and issues related to the immune system.
These procedures do feel uncomfortable but should be painless. However, many women who undergo these examinations have generally reported feeling exceptional discomfort, anxiety, and overall unpleasantness. Though the speculum is a ubiquitous medical tool, it continues to rely on a design that was invented over 200 years ago! To address this concern and make this medical procedure more comfortable, Fahti Khosrowshahi founded Ceek Women’s Health in 2015, which has developed the Nella line consisting of a modern speculum and two accessories: Nella NuSpec, Nella VuLight, and Nella VuSleeve.
The Nella NuSpec is the first reusable speculum that is designed to provide patients with the ultimate comfort. It is made of an autoclavable medical-grade polymer that omits the requirement of warming or lubricating the speculum before insertion. Additionally, its design equips it with an ultra-narrow bill, no wider than an average tampon, making it more comfortable for patients. NuSpec’s ergonomic design also makes it easy for physicians to use due to its angled handle and one-handed locking system that allows the physician to maintain the speculum in place without causing discomfort to the patient.
Nella VuLight is a pocket-sized solution for inadequate lighting during the examination and is brighter than the current standard gooseneck lighting used as it provides a shadow-free focus on the cervix directly for optimal inspection. VuLight is secured onto the upper bill of the speculum and rotates smoothly for positioning. It is easy to use and easily fits NuSpec as well as most common metal or plastic speculums.
Nella VuSleeve is a protective sleeve that is secured around the speculum bill to protect the patient from the uncomfortable coldness of the speculum as well as possible abrasion as it protects the vaginal sidewalls.
In the NuSpec’s clinical uses in the US, 99% of women who used it have reported feeling less anxiety and more comfort during the examination procedure. Although I personally have not yet come across this innovation in Canadian clinical practice yet, it is exciting to see women’s health being taken more seriously as more research and development is being done to optimize interactions between a (female) patient and their physicians and am looking forward to this technology reaching a larger and international audience as well!