After his young son fell 36 feet from a window in 2005, Walter De Brouwer spent the better part of a year at the hospital. Nelson, his son, had endured severe brain trauma. In addition to a lengthy rehabilitation, Nelson required vigilant monitoring; his vital signs were checked daily.
For De Brouwer, a 55-year-old Belgian inventor and entrepreneur, Nelson’s protracted rehabilitation confronted him with the inner workings of hospitals and their intricate technology. Staring at the monitors inside the emergency room and ICU, he grasped how significant their measurements were in saving lives.
“I looked at all the monitors, but I never actually asked myself what these things meant about our health,” De Brouwer said. “It struck me that when you understand exactly the readings today, you can actually make a plan so that your future changes.”
De Brouwer struck upon the idea of making vitals checks easier, not only for medical personnel but for everyone.
“What would it be like if you could have the power of a hospital in your hand?” he asked.
Inspired by the 1960s television show “Star Trek,” which featured the use of a medical tricorder that could instantly scan for bodily ailments, De Brouwer founded a company called Scanadu and went about inventing a real-life tricorder: the Scanadu Scout.
The circular Scanadu Scout, which will eventually retail for $199, fits easily in the palm of a hand and creates an electrical signal when placed against the forehead. That signal produces an electrocardiogram that records your respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature. It also has PPG sensor that records your blood oxygenation.
Scanadu uploads the data to a mobile app, where you can check the results within 20 seconds. By storing your data, the app creates a history of your vital readings and establishes a baseline for normal measurements.
By placing this technology in the hands of the consumer, De Brouwer says people will become better educated about their health and better aware of warning signs. He also believes it can have broad economic benefits for hospitals, by cutting triage processing times and decreasing premature visits.
“If you know this information now about yourself, you know also where you have to go in the future to become healthier,” he said. “You can make a plan.”
In the video above, De Brouwer tests the Scanadu Scout on a couple of ABC News employees, all of whom had healthy vital signs.
“Isn’t anyone here unhealthy?” he asked after testing a fifth enthusiastic employee.
The Scanadu Scout is available for preorder on Scanadu’s website.