I’ve always been a big fan of Star Trek, the series and all the movies. After a visiting a friend recently in the hospital and seeing all the devices and technology hooked up to them but then watching a nurse write some readings on her arm so she could then go out in to the hallway at a computer stand and enter my friends stats, I thought what would Dr. Crusher do? So now we all have some kind of ‘communicator’ in our pocket, that small little handy device we call a cell phone that the Enterprise crew carried to keep in touch. But thinking about my recent hospital visit, I thought, what about the Tricorder? An even handier, more important device uses on Star Trek so save lives.

So I googled up ‘tricoder’ a while ago and was pleased to find the $10million Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize was announced back in January at the CES show by in March with the lofty goal to ‘empower personal healthcare’ through technology. According to the prize website, the goal of this global competition is to “to stimulate innovation and integration of precision diagnostic technologies, making reliable health diagnoses available directly to “health consumers” at home”.

Dr. Peter Jansen unveils his vision of the Tricoder design.

I’ve been tracking the progress of contest, and was pleased to see Nokia has recently announced a $2.25 million Nokia Sensing X Challenge. The launch of the contest hasn’t been without some controversy. While I agree with several of the doctors who responded to the first post on the company contest blog that technology can’t replace a doctor, it seems clear that mobile technologies should have a place in helping improve healthcare. Every day there are more and more apps being released that offer helpful advice, information and condition tracking. Many of these apps are developed and driven by what I described in an earlier post at the ‘e-patient’, a technology savvy healthcare consumer. I’m also happy to see more and more companies are expanding their investments and approaches to help improve the delivery of healthcare. With millions of Americans and billions of the world’s population not having access to affordable, quality health care consumers, doctors and healthcare providers need all the support they can get.

I look forward to seeing what some of the brightest minds in healthcare diagnostics and technology will come up with and that sometime in the not to distant future in not only will I be able to have ‘healthcare in the palm’ of my hand, but hopefully so will every nurse and caregiver.

For more information about this contest, go to http://www.qualcommtricorderxprize.org/.