Devices & Diagnostics

Innovative pediatric asthma telemedicine device being tested at Children’s of Minnesota

Last year, industrial design firm Worrell Inc. stunned the world and itself when it imagined a futuristic telemedicine device. It created a video showing a mother using a laptop-like device, both a medical kit and a communications tool, to connect with a nurse who promised to monitor a sick child overnight much to the mother’s […]

Last year, industrial design firm Worrell Inc. stunned the world and itself when it imagined a futuristic telemedicine device.

It created a video showing a mother using a laptop-like device, both a medical kit and a communications tool, to connect with a nurse who promised to monitor a sick child overnight much to the mother’s relief.

No longer a figment of imagination, the product, called DocBox, is being evaluated and tested by an internal review board at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in advance of a clinical trial. Many different DocBox-es addressing different disease states are being conceived. The one at Children’s is aimed at pediatric asthma.

The American Lung Association estimates that asthma is a chronic disease that affects 7.1 million children under 18. It is the third leading cause of hospitalization amongst children under the age of 15.

While the market need is significant, there are many unanswered questions about how DocBox will be commercialized such as who will pay for it and how it will be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. That said, money can’t buy the peace of mind that comes with knowing what the device could be capable of, said  Jeff Weness, senior director of corporate devlopement, Children’s: a nurse remotely monitoring a sick child overnight.

Worrell CEO Kai Worrell previously revealed precious little about the product, but in an interview Thursday, he said that a separate DocBox will be tested in the field of heart failure at a clinical trial at the University of California San Diego Health System in the fall.

He added that Worrell  has raised nearly $1 million, mostly from angels and high-net worth individuals to help bring the product to market. So far, he has ignored the advice of some people and eschewed raising money from venture capialists.

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“They are so onerous,” Worrell said.

Meanwhile, healthcare providers continue to show interest. Integrated healthcare system HealthPartners, which has a history of embracing new technology, has also shown interest in the DocBox.