How Science And Technology Can Save Lives, One App At A Time

Senior Contributor
05.22.17

Uproxx / NBC

Uproxx knows that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines are driving the future of this planet forward. Every day, we see new ideas, fresh innovations, and bold trailblazers in these fields. Follow us this month as we highlight how STEM is shaping the culture of NOW.

When laypeople think of medicine, we tend to think in the abstract — of advanced technology, new drugs, and other sweeping innovations sure to cure millions of what ails them. But medicine is ultimately a one-on-one science, and saving lives tends to happen on a person-by-person basis. The problem is that getting face time with a doctor is expensive and almost impossible to come by in remote areas.

That’s where STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-based tools come in. Thanks to futuristic innovations, medicine is becoming both individualized and less expensive. Sooner than you think, medical diagnosis will be in the palm of your hand and rather than wondering if that ache or pain is a problem, you’ll be able to get a clear reading.

Sounds like something from TV, right? Oddly enough, this road to a brighter tomorrow began with the seemingly absurd goal of building a tool from Star Trek. In 2012, Qualcomm announced the Tricorder X-Prize. The Tricorder, as Trekkies know, is the scanner that characters wave around in all iterations of the show. It’s a device that instantly tells the crew about local minerals, air quality, injuries, etc. Though that sounds impossible, the tricorders that XPrize wanted were only slightly less ambitious.

“XPrize envisioned a medical Tricorder that would be used by consumers and open the door to addressing a significant global unmet need,” explains prize head Grant Campany, “providing hundreds of millions of people around the world with access to modern medical technology, by extending the reach of nurses and physicians into rural locations around the world.”

The goal was to create a device that was non-invasive (i.e. you didn’t need to jab yourself with needles) and that would scan various bodily markers for signs of 15 different diseases. Instead of going in for a physical every six months, data would collect over time, and if a problem popped up, only then would you schedule an office visit. Campany notes that XPrize also wanted a product that was useful in an emergency: “So, if your child gets sick in the middle of the night parents will have the tools necessary to rapidly assess the health of their children via direct access to physicians.”

The winner of the $10 million prize was DxTer — a product by Basil Leaf Technologies designed to be used by the person on the street. DxTer, at its root, is an app that connects to a collection of medical devices, ranging from blood pressure monitors to spirometers. Spend a few minutes following the instructions, and DxTer’s diagnostic engine crunches the data and offers you a diagnosis. If DxTer thinks you’ve got a problem, the next step is to call the doctor.

In an era of data-driven information, this is an example of numbers being used to save lives.

XPrize

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