The ONC could be facing some competition in the area of holding competitions to stimulate health IT innovation. This week the X PRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing about “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity,” announced at CES the launch of a global competition to build a portable device for consumers that can make medical diagnoses independent of a physician or health care provider.
The Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE competition will run over the course of approximately 3.5 years and will award a total of ten million dollars to the winning teams. The foundation envisions a winning device that would leverage health IT innovation “in areas such as artificial intelligence and wireless sensing — much like the medical Tricorder of Star Trek® fame,” according to the press release.
The idea behind building this “space-age” device is that patients would easily be able to monitor their vital signs and diagnose diseases. This could help patients in determining when and how to seek out medical help if needed.
While such a device could save the health care system money by keeping patients from making unnecessary visits to the hospital, it would not be able to provide actual care to consumers who lack access to it. For example, according to the competition FAQ, the device might be able to diagnose strep throat, but it wouldn’t be able to prescribe antibiotics.
At least, not in this stage of development. The FAQ states that “Future versions and additional health care partnerships would be required to allow for” the device to be able to actively provide care to consumers. That might sound a little scary to some people, but it could have a big impact on patients who lack access to medical facilities.
There is something a little pessimistic, though, about a competition that is pushing for this technology because, “Despite substantial investment to improve the status quo, even average levels of service, efficiency, affordability, accessibility, and satisfaction remain out of reach for many whom the system was intended to help.” A medical tricorder sounds pretty cool, but one that integrated with a fully functioning, interoperable health care system would be even cooler.