Pocket-sized fingerprint scanner could solve the bottleneck in treating patients in developing countries, say inventors. Jim Drury reports.
A pocket-sized fingerprint scanner could improve healthcare access for those in the developing world. So say the British students behind Simprints, which syncs the medical records of patients to health worker's phones via an app. Tristram Norman is lead software developer. SOUNDBITE (English) TRISTRAM NORMAN, LEAD SOFTWARE DEVELOPER, SAYING; "A health worker will come to the field and they'll have a phone or tablet like this and they'll say 'we're seeing these patients, we're here to provide medication,' and they'll say 'Great, swipe your fingerprint' and then they'll use this fingerprint to search the record database and say 'do you have existing medical records and can we access those?'" The system accesses health records stored in a local database. In areas with limited connectivity health workers can update medical records offline. These will automatically sync with the database when the user's phone gets a signal. Health workers in remote areas can find it hard to identify clients, who may have no birth certificate or passport, and whose records are held on paper. Simprints hopes to end this confusion. CEO Toby Norman insists all data acquired is secure. SOUNDBITE (English) TOBY NORMAN, CEO OF SIMPRINTS, SAYING: "First we don't work with patient medical records, so we never store or hold access to patient data. That's all held by the organizations we work with. Second we never transmit raw fingerprint images, so we actually do the extraction process where we take a fingerprint image and turn it into a template. We do that on the scanner itself, meaning that the fingerprint image never leaves the scanner. Third we use the same level of encryptions that we use in online banking or financial transactions that secure any data that passes between the phone and the server." The team, part funded by the Gates Foundation, is road testing five scanner designs in Bangladesh. The most popular will be chosen for manufacture next year. Each scanner will cost under 50 dollars, which NGOs consulted by Simprints say make it affordable. One-and-a-half million children die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Simprints hopes its scanner could help reduce that figure significantly.