Imagine owning a portable, wireless device that can diagnose your health condition in just minutes and then help you monitor treatment and recovery over the long term -- all without a doctor anytime, anywhere.
This is the goal of the $10 million global Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition.
A project aiming to empower people to make their own healthcare choices -- for a faster, safer industry -- the outcome of XPRIZE will literally put healthcare in the palms of consumers, inspiring a future where anyone can manage their health independent of a hospital or doctor's office.
And a local Tampa Bay area group, led by Tampa resident Tracy Ingram, believes they can develop this product -- one that will ultimately catapult healthcare in the right direction and transform the industry, turning the art of medicine into a science.
Intuitive Technology With Intention
With more than 10 years of experience in bioinformatics, Ingram, a Florida Gulf Cost University graduate and member of TEDx Sarasota
, has researched and imported technology from around the world. His specialty? Data acquisition and pattern recognition from microdata.
After spending more than a decade importing medical technology that tracked patient health trends for healthcare professionals, his work to make health a willing part of consumers' everyday lives became a personal crusade.
"I had been working in this industry for a number of years when my mother's aneurism was misdiagnosed,'' says Ingram. "Because of this misdiagnosis, she was confined to her bed for nearly two years straight. This was completely avoidable, but the medical and technology industry had yet to mature to the point where this issue would have, or could have, been detected.''
A few years ago, it became clear to Ingram he had to do something. And boasting experience, he had the ability to make that happen.
"I don't want what happened to my mom to happen ever again -- to her or to anyone. Nobody deserves to have years of their life stolen from them because of a medical misdiagnosis.''
With that passion and a goal in mind, Ingram sought a team of bioinformatics experts and launched Intention Technology. Specializing in medical diagnostic devices, the Intention Technology
team, as a whole, has years of experience working with global diagnostic technology.
Currently, the team's biggest project is their entry into the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE
competition, an international humanitarian challenge to create a non-invasive medical device that allows consumers to accurately diagnose at least 15 separate diseases on their own.
Recently, Ingram and the Intention Technolgy team made it into the second phase of XPRIZE, going from more than 300 international teams to a mere 30 -- with teams from California to India, and everywhere in-between.
Before learning of XPRIZE, Ingram says Intention Technolgy was already on the path toward building very similar medical technology. Once the competition was announced in May 2011, the opportunity to showcase the team's ideas immediately popped up on his radar.
The Intention Technology team began work at the start of the competition in January 2012, designing an entry aiming to solve two existing problems in medical testing: to shorten the amount of time required to make a medical diagnosis and to create a better solution for accuracy.
"Some diagnostic tests take a long time to process and, still, a doctor has to get the results from the lab, analyze, process paperwork and get the information back to the patient, only adding even more time. In some cases, this process can take days or even weeks.''
Intention Technology's solution will do this in under five minutes, eliminating paperwork and ensuring accuracy -- all in one convenient, state-of-the-art and easy-to-use handheld device.
"In today's medical system, a patient might have multiple medical technicians collecting information using different methods or styles; different documents reviewing results in different ways,'' Ingram says. "Our project is objective in how it collects data: It will always be the same method and the results are always reported the same way.''
Why is this so important to Ingram and his team? Simply put: Repetition and the ability to verify data become increasingly more important when you're collecting and evaluating a person's medial history over time.
"Depending on how you think of the device being used, it's somewhat of an answer to virtually everyone's medical concerns,'' Ingram says. "Insurance companies want prevention to be a key component of health, doctors need better data and information (to more accurately treat patients while saving time) and people just like you and me want to keep control over what's happening to our bodies. We don't want to be treated like an unnamed patient or customer.''
Today, very few methods exist in the healthcare industry in which consumers are able to receive direct medical care without seeing a healthcare professional. The devices being created for XPRIZE are simple and consumer-friendly, ultimately providing the necessary information individuals, doctors and insurance companies need to get back to the number one concern: health.
Shaping The Future Of Health
A game-changer in the medical industry, Ingram and his team are ensuring success via their entry by developing predictive algorithms that measure minute changes in physiology. This ultimately will allow for recognition among health trends and disease patterns.
"What we're building is both a long-term wearable device and a point-of-care scanning device that can identify known patterns for more than 23 medical conditions ranging from strep throat to signs of a stroke.''
Ultimately, the tool will collect large volumes of data from ongoing measurements of health states through a combination of wireless sensors, imaging technologies and portable, non-invasive laboratory replacements.
Teams will have to consider tradeoffs among weight, functionality, power requirements, battery life, screen resolution, engine location, diagnosis capability and end consumer cost, among other things.
"Our method is a layered approach that uses five or more different signals from the body. This includes heart rate, blood pressure and temperature.''
In order to further augment a workable, successful and prize-worthy solution, Ingram says the Intention Technology team is currently exploring partnerships with USF Health
and other local medical diagnostic organizations."
To do this -- to win the gold medal, to win the XPRIZE -- Intention Technology is continuously adding talent to our team,'' Ingram says. "Tampa Bay represents the greatest density of medical technology companies in the country, so it's fitting that a company from this area should win the competition.''
Ingram strongly encourages anyone excited about what's being done by Intention Technology to get involved with an open call for talent: "I'd love to meet you! We're currently looking for investors, sponsors and always seeking out new talented people looking to making a difference.''
Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE’s winner will be announced in August 2014.
"Working with each other, we will ensure our region becomes known as the capital of medical technology,'' Ingram says.
Alexis Quinn Chamberlain, a Florida native and freelance writer, can often be found shopping local farmers markets, walking around her North Hyde Park neighborhood and daydreaming with her boyfriend and Chihuahua at Davis Islands Seaplane Basin. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.