1. What is your innovation?
The modification central to our vital signs monitor is an automated treatment response to irregular breathing. Respiratory distress in premature infants usually results from neurological underdevelopment; our light vibration system activates a more conscious response, comparable to the current treatment of having a nurse tap the foot. Our combination of diagnosis, treatment, and data collection saves lives while conserving the valuable time of nursing staffs strained far beyond capacity.
2. Who gains the most?
Infants who suffer regular, undetected oxygen deprivation early in life pay extensively later on. Typically faced with mental underdevelopment ("failure to thrive") and associated socioeconomic costs, they are also at higher risk for heart failure and SIDS. Monitoring with our device will prevent these symptoms. Nurses may fill out pages of false data because they simply don't have time to check patients; automatic logging will ease this burden while providing doctors diagnostic with confidence.
3. Who pays?
While the monitor is a low-cost solution to the complete lack of hospital monitors in the developing world, it also is a marked improvement on home monitors for purchase in the United States. We will implement a "one-for-one" sales model: after gaining a foothold abroad with the assistance of university partners, expansion will be funded by domestic purchases. In addition to peace of mind about the health of their infant, domestic users are purchasing a sense of social conscience.
4. What is your success?
We hope to begin initial field tests abroad in May 2012 at hospitals in Malawi, Lesotho, and Botswana with which Rice has established relationships. Each of these is run by a different nonprofit; at 12 months, we will have incorporated feedback from field tests and expanded to include other hospitals run by each nonprofit. Data collection for a clinical trial will be completed within 3 years, and at 5 years we hope to expand beyond respiratory data to include comprehensive infant vital tracking.
5. How will you do it?
Taking advantage of constantly growing wireless data transfer in difficult locations is one of our keys to success: this aspect of our project has the most potential for expansion beyond the initial product. Establishing a market in the developed world as a home monitoring system provides a consistent revenue stream to fund our hospital branch abroad, and collaborating with established nonprofits - particularly those with strong in-country delivery systems - will help us reach those in need.