West Wireless Health Institute Awards $10K Developers Challenge in Conjunction With the Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative (VAi2)

April 12, 2011

U.S. Veteran and Melanoma Survivor Leverages Low-Cost Wireless Technology for Early Detection of Skin Cancer

SAN DIEGO, April 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The West Wireless Health Institute (WWHI) today announced the winner of its $10,000 developers challenge, Dr. Steven Palmer, who created the “Veterans Melanoma Early Warning System” (VMEWS@Home).The wireless application is designed to alert a user to early signs of the most dangerous form of skin cancer and communicate concerns to a healthcare provider for evaluation and recommendation.

WWHI issued the challenge in conjunction with the Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative (VAi2) in October 2010, during WWHI’s first Health Care Innovation Day (www.hcidc.org) event in Washington D.C. The challenge called on innovators to create a cost-effective app or device that can wirelessly connect patients and clinicians within the VA health system and share data pertinent to a patient’s care.

“I’m extremely grateful to WWHI and VAi2 for this opportunity and thrilled to be part of their commitment to the wellbeing of our nation’s veterans,” said Dr. Palmer. “I share in their belief that 21st century technologies are giving rise to new, far reaching paradigms for doctor-patient interaction that will enhance the delivery of medical care and provide better outcomes for us all.

“It’s an honor that VMEWS@Home has been chosen to be part of this effort, and I look forward to exploring opportunities with the Veterans Administration to develop a program that firmly establishes the value of this initiative and telemedicine in general,” added Palmer, a melanoma survivor who received treatment at the Providence, Rhode Island Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The VMEWS@Home app is designed to guide a user through a monthly skin self-examination; gather metrically precise, color-balanced photographs of moles and skin lesions; and provide image comparisons so the user can see a change in the appearance of a mole. It also includes an option to electronically forward that visual information to a dermatology clinic for review and recommendation.

“We are thrilled to recognize Dr. Palmer for his innovative idea for enhancing secondary prevention efforts for melanoma,” said Don Casey, WWHI’s CEO. “Wireless apps like VMEWS@Home demonstrate the potential of integrating monitoring capabilities into people’s daily lives. When we launched the developers challenge with VAi2, we wanted to spur exactly this type of breakthrough thinking to enable great outcomes at a much lower human and financial cost.”

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is one of the fastest growing cancers in the world and a significant concern among the high-risk demographic of veterans under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a disease of the epidermis, melanoma is often visible to the naked eye while still fully curable with simple outpatient procedures, when diagnosed early. The cost of treatment for melanoma in situ (early diagnosis) is estimated at $1,700 for a complete cure. The cost of treatment for invasive melanoma (later diagnosis) is estimated at $180,000, with little hope for cure.

“This innovation has the potential to empower Veterans–and people generally–with the ability to catch cancer early,” said Jonah Czerwinski, Director of the VAi2 Program. “And that a Veteran is behind this idea is testament to the ongoing commitment of Veterans to serve others with their talents and skills.”

Dr. Palmer is a Purple Heart Veteran of Vietnam. He has been writing workflow software for the financial industries since receiving his Doctor of Science degree from M.I.T. in 1974.

As a melanoma survivor, Dr. Palmer built an iPhone application for his own use to guide his self-examination, allowing him to map his moles onto an avatar of his body and to revisit those moles; photograph them with an accessory he designed – a card with a specific, computer readable image that the user places on the skin around the mole being photographed; and, compare the images over time looking for change in size, shape, border regularity, or coloration pattern. As a final step, the app can electronically communicate with a care-provider to request an appointment, attaching the visual data for reference.

The application is the property of Alternate Universe Technologies, LLC, a Providence, Rhode Island-based company Dr. Palmer formed to pursue his iPhone ventures. For this application, Dr. Palmer engaged a medical consultant, Dr. Martin Weinstock, Professor of Dermatology and Community Health, Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, and Chief of Dermatology, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Providence, Rhode Island.

For more information about WWHI, visit www.westwirelesshealth.org.

For more information about VAi2, visit: http://www.va.gov/VAi2.


The West Wireless Health Institute (www.westwirelesshealth.org) is one of the first medical research organizations in the world supporting the exploration and application of wireless technologies to advance infrastructure independent health care. Founded in March 2009 by the Gary and Mary West Foundation, the nonprofit Institute is dedicated to innovating, validating, advocating for, investing in and commercializing wireless technologies to transform medicine. Its mission is to lower health care costs by accelerating the availability of wireless medical technology. The Institute is based in San Diego, California, the global center for health care innovation.


Under Secretary Shinseki’s leadership, the Department of Veterans Affairs is transforming itself into a 21st-century organization that is people-centric, results-driven, and forward-looking. This journey involves a commitment to many broad challenges: to stay on the cutting edge of health care delivery; to lay the foundation for safe, secure, and authentic health record interoperability; to deliver excellent service for Veterans who apply for disability and education benefits; and to create a modern, efficient, and customer-friendly interface that all Veterans will enjoy.

The VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) is a flagship program designed to tap the talent and expertise of individuals both inside and outside government to contribute new ideas that ultimately produce new, innovative solutions that advance VA’s ability to meet the challenges of becoming a 21st-century organization.

VAi2 invites employees, private sector companies, entrepreneurs, and academic leaders to contribute their best ideas for innovations that increase Veterans’ access to VA services, improve the quality of services delivered, enhance the performance of VA operations, and reduce or control the cost of delivering those services that Veterans and their families receive. VAi2 will identify, prioritize, fund, test, and deploy the most promising solutions to the VA’s most important challenges.

SOURCE West Wireless Health Institute

Source: newswire

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