Scanadu unveils smartphone-enabled home diagnostics

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 29, 2012        

Tags: | | | | | |  |

scanadu SCOUTScanadu, the 2-year-old San Francisco startup aiming to develop a handheld medical scanner for home use, similar to the Star Trek tricorder, has unveiled its first three products, set for release by the end of 2013.

The Scanadu SCOUT is the central scanner component. The NASA Ames Research Center-based company says that customers simply hold the small, lightweight device to the patient’s temple and it will return five vital sign results with 99 percent accuracy in less than 10 seconds.

“Consumers’ attention deficit is increasing,” CEO Walter de Brouwer told MobiHealthNews in an interview last month. “And if they have a device that can do diagnostics, they are not willing to spend more than 10 seconds waiting. They’d like to have real time, they’ll settle for 10 seconds, but a minute would be too long.”

The data from the scan will be uploaded to a Scanadu app via Bluetooth and will track pulse transit time, heart rate, electrical heart activity, body temperature, heart rate variability, and blood oxygenation. The company plans to sell the device for less than $150, and the firmware will be remotely upgradable, allowing Scanadu to add new scanning metrics in the future.

“We found in user testing that the consumer doesn’t want to go through the ritual of the doctor checkup,” de Brouwer told MobiHealthNews. “The consumer wants one position on the body. And he wants to do the diagnostics all in that one position. And the consumer is price-specific. For the consumer, the price sensitivity will be very high.”

In addition to the SCOUT, the company announced two “low-cost and disposable early detection tools,” which will be integrated with the Scanadu app.

Project ScanaFlo will be used to conduct urinalysis. Customers can buy an over-the-counter disposable cartridge, and the software will test urine for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, kidney failure and urinary tract infections. Pregnant women will also be able to scan for pregnancy complications or to monitor their health throughout the pregnancy.

Project ScanaFlu, meanwhile, will analyze saliva in cases of cold-like symptoms. It will test for Strep A, Influenza A and B, adenovirus, and RSV.

Scanadu plans to submit the products to the FDA for review as soon as next week. De Brouwer said that as a medical device with a consumer-focused use case, it’s not clear whether the FDA will consider the device unique. The SCOUT goes into manufacturing next month, freeing up the company’s team to work on the software side, particularly the user interface.

Scanadu also stressed in the announcement that Scanadu can be used by healthy customers, too, to monitor personal average vitals, so that when a person does get sick doctors have more information about what’s normal for that individual.

Dr. Alan Greene, Chief Medical Officer at Scanadu, said in a statement, “Health decisions shouldn’t be based on averages, they should be based on a real, accurate and personalized healthfeed of data — which we now have the power to give to the consumer in the palm of their hand.”

Scanadu is one of the more visible companies competing in the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, a competition to develop a device much like this one. The announced vitals the SCOUT can read line up fairly closely with the draft guidelines for the prize, with the exception of respiratory rate. De Brouwer said the device can read respiratory rate, but not within Scanadu’s self-imposed 10-second window. He said a marketable consumer product is a higher priority than the prize, which is still a year out from its first judging round.

De Brouwer believes Scanadu will be just one step in a personal health revolution.

“This is the beginning of a nascent industry of personal healthcare and consumer health. The first time in my life I’ve seen this excitement was with the personal computer, the second time was with the Internet and now it’s about health,” de Brouwer said.

He said he wants this product to change the relationship consumers of health care have with providers, making consumers the keepers of their own health information.

“Now we treat doctors as accountants who have to keep records for us,” he said. “They were not trained to do this. What they were trained to be was an analyst of data, to give us their point of view, their therapy.”