UCLA professor Aydogan Ozcan is pioneering integrations of biomedical tools with cell phones, to create lightweight, pocketsize gadgets that can test for a broad range of diseases and transmit information directly to secure servers without sacrificing sensitivity or quality. These advances are effectively changing where and how medical testing can be performed, expanding beyond point-of-care sites and clinics.
New capabilities and technologies include:
- A portable microscope that can be attached to any smartphone enabling pathologists tracking a disease in the field to look at parasites or bacteria without repeated trips to the lab.
- Cell phone-friendly tool for cell and blood analysis to help doctors better diagnose and treat a wide range of medical conditions.
- Cell phone-based device that can detect possible allergens in food, with an initial model designed to detect peanuts. This could potentially change how we cope and live with food allergies. Similar tools can sense harmful bacteria in water.
- Time stamps and location data in cell-phone biomedical tools feed into a Google Maps-type interface that can allow researchers, policymakers or local governments to track the spread of infectious diseases through specific geographical location and time period. Findings can help better understand a virus’ spread and develop new tools to halt it.
The goal is to bring previously cost and location-prohibitive tests to new populations, as those who need them most are often least able to access them. This type of purpose-driven innovation presents important lessons in understanding the real experience of a target population (audience)—what they need and how they need it, and identifying the best delivery system.
This creative strategy reinforces the growing importance and omnipotence of mobile. What was conceived as a communication tool has become so much more as cell phones increasingly become the great equalizer over geographies and populations. Health technology continues to advance at a rapid pace to address unmet needs in inventive, yet simple, ways. Let’s rethink how we find solutions for our clients and their patients that are smart, simple and address immediate needs.