RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. - A Rancho Santa Margarita physician who helped develop a medical kit that can help doctors diagnose coronavirus said Wednesday he is hoping to accelerate federal approval of the invention to help patients and doctors during the pandemic.
Dr. Samir Qamar, who has offices in Las Vegas and Rancho Santa Margarita, helped lead a team of medical engineers in 2014 to develop MedWand, a portable, computerized device that would help doctors remotely diagnose patients.
Co-founder Robert Rose, the lead engineer, helped Qamar realize his vision of a device "that allowed for exams across borders" in 2015. Since then, the team has been seeking Food and Drug Administration approval and were expecting it by this summer.
But then the coronavirus struck China and carried over into the United States and elsewhere in the world.
"We knew, especially when it came to our shores, that this was exactly what this was made for," Qamar told City News Service. "We started thinking of different ways to help in this crisis."
So the team reconfigured the device, which can check a patient's temperature, oxygen levels, and blood pressure, to also analyze other symptoms of COVID-19, Qamar said. The device cannot check for the virus, but it can analyze all of the associated symptoms, so a doctor can decide whether a patient should be tested.
The device is designed so it connects with a laptop, tablet or desktop computer, so a doctor can receive data online in a video-conference appointment.
The MedWand can help doctors triage patients and also keep nurses and physicians safe from being exposed to someone afflicted with the highly contagious disease, Qamar said.
"Right now you have doctors in ICU in hospitals and we think if they had a device like this to examine a patient from afar it would be so much better for them," Qamar said.
"I could guide a nasal or throat swab in real time with a patient," Qamar said. "And I could look down your throat while you're doing it."
A patient on their own may not know exactly where to best swipe for a sample, Qamar said.
"That's one of the biggest fears of self-testing kits," the doctor said.
Qamar envisions the MedWand for coronavirus would cost about $2,000, because it would include a high-powered laptop, so the initial consumer would be medical care providers, he said.
The original MedWand would not cost as much -- probably several hundred dollars -- and would be targeted toward individual consumers, especially parents, because they could have it around for years to check a child's fever and other symptoms, Qamar said.
"The world is reminded of the importance of telemedicine in a very harsh way," Qamar said of the coronavirus pandemic. "I think you're going to see a rise of telemedicine in a way you never had before. It will be easier to put trust in new technology."
Since his company issued an announcement Wednesday about MedWand, his office received inquiries from medical professionals in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Mexico and Spain, Qamar said.
"But we're Americans, born and bred here, and we want to ship out as much as we can here," Qamar said.