A United States-Brazilian research team has just won the 2011-2012 Mobile Health University Challenge with a mobile phone newborn hearing screening test.
The prize is awarded by Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA) in partnership with Qtel and Qualcomm and was recently announced at the GSMA-mHealth Alliance’s Mobile Health Summit.
The winning entry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Universidade Federal do Riogrande do Norte (UFRN) will reportedly enable health care workers and nurses to conduct infant screening tests and electronically send the data to an audiologist for diagnosis.
In Brazil and other rural communities in many countries, there is a shortage of trained audiologists, so the inventors see the device as a way to screen more infants, regardless of their location.
The device is based on a piece of hardware called an ER-10C. Once the infant is tested, the data can be transmitted via cable or Bluetooth to a mobile phone running the team’s Sana Audiopulse software. The phone uploads the data to the cellular network, which then sends it to an audiologist for analysis.
A two-month pilot project in the Brazilian state of Natal starts in August 2012, and another clinical trial will be conducted in Boston.
Following the pilot, the aim is for a wider rollout of the service to rural communities. The basis for the winners’ business model is the Brazilian government’s subsidy of US$3 to clinics for each hearing test they conduct. The team aims to work with both public and private health care providers.