Feds see need for Duluth start-up's medical translator deviceIn the aftermath of Haiti’s horrific earthquake, a start-up Duluth technology company was contacted by the federal government to see whether its landmark device could help victims with heath-care needs.
In the aftermath of Haiti’s horrific earthquake, a start-up Duluth technology company was contacted by the federal government to see whether its landmark device could help victims with heath-care needs.
The humanitarian problem: Doctors from developed nations speaking German, French, English and other languages have traveled to the Caribbean country to help Haitians who speak Creole, Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese and Spanish.
The feds wanted to know whether the Phrazer, a new technology from Duluth’s GeaCom Inc., could be part of the solution. The digital and wireless handheld device “listens” to a patient and determines their native language in seconds. It then loads a program with a doctor speaking in the patient’s tongue, helping identify what ails them, how severe it is and for how long it has been an issue. That data is then relayed to the caregiver to determine what treatment is necessary.
“The good news is that this device will be able to handle these things in the future; the bad news is that we are not able to handle them today,” said GeaCom founder and president Mat Johnson. “Though we are not prepared for this specific incident, we are being proactive for when the next ones come up. We will be able to make a difference. … It’s the only complete remote digital patient processing system there is.”
Johnson sat down last week with the News Tribune to discuss Phrazer’s ongoing test trials, how soon the product will be manufactured in Duluth and when it will be available in the marketplace.
Johnson talked about the positive feedback the Phrazer prototypes have received in trials in major Minnesota medical centers as well as Northern Europe and Africa.
“This actual device is making some massive headway,” Johnson said. “We are getting some reports back and simultaneously we are ramping up our manufacture.”
With the wireless capabilities built into its Bulldog prototype, GeaCom is able to see, for instance, whether test patients are struggling to answer a particular question. If so, GeaCom can update the software during the trials.
In March, GeaCom is planning a “milestone event” to publicize trial results in front of about 500 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The guest list includes partners from Texas Instruments, Emerson Electronics and Medtronic, as well as other technology and health officials and high-ranking politicians.
Johnson said GeaCom, with more than 25 employees, is fine-tuning its bill of materials to begin initial assembly in Southeast Asia and final assembly in Duluth. Johnson said he expects to produce 4,000 to 6,000 units per month for the first year beginning this fall and increasing based on demand.
Johnson said he believes Phrazer could help widen the medical device business network that’s centered in the Twin Cities area.