SHERIDAN — When the prize for a national medical technology contest was awarded last week in Baltimore, representatives of the winning team hadn’t traveled to the event from a well-known hub for innovative software development.
Instead, they hailed mostly from Sheridan and surrounding communities in Wyoming and southern Montana.
The honorees — representatives of Sheridan-based MobileHealthWare — recently developed a mobile application that was granted the top prize in the nationwide Pressure Ulcer Prevention Mobile App Challenge.
Their submission, an app known as WoundMap Pressure Ulcer Management Program, was designed to allow nurses to track changes in a patient’s ulcers using the camera on their mobile devices.
The software enables nurses to document, assess and subsequently create individualized treatment plans based on a patient’s unique medical circumstances.
Despite being headquartered in a rural community, the executive head of MobileHealthWare said the organization’s physical surroundings never served as a hindrance when it came to building the cutting-edge piece of medical software.
“Even though we’re not in Silicon Valley or New York or Denver or Salt Lake, this kind of work can be done anywhere,” MobileHealthWare CEO Dr. Tom Richards said. “If you have the right people, you can work anywhere.”
According to figures from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 2.5 million people in the United States are affected by the skin condition each year. Additionally, pressure ulcers are estimated to account for about $10 billion in total health care costs.
Richards said that while pressure ulcers are common among elderly Americans, only a very small percentage of nurses ever receive specialized training in how best to care for the condition.
That lack of training was especially distressing for Richards since, unlike some facets of medicine, proper wound care depends heavily on the ability of doctors and nurses to visually assess the injury.
The WoundMap application enables providers, many of whom lack specialized training in the treatment of pressure ulcers, to make informed decisions when it comes to crafting individualized care plans.
That ability could prove especially important in rural areas where access to specialized care is often limited to begin with.
“Although (mobile medical software) could be used anywhere, it probably has the greatest utility in a place like Wyoming,” Richards said.
The MobileHealthWare team began work on the application about a year before the contest was announced — a fact that Richards said helped put the group at a competitive advantage against the other 30-plus teams that competed for the award.
More so than the added time, however, Richards said the expertise of his core development team contributed enormously to the success of their efforts.
Experts including software engineer Dr. Todd Guion, wound care expert Marta Ostler and nursing professor Dr. Karen Zulkowski served as the central team behind the development of the application.
Contributors from six other states also played a role in crafting the final product.
In addition to MobileHealthWare, several groups have worked to bring innovative medical services to Wyoming in recent months.
Their work has been supported by local initiatives such as those overseen by the economic development group Forward Sheridan.
For his part, Richards said the aid of Forward Sheridan Executive Director Jay Stender was essential in assembling the team that went on to develop the app.
Stender, meanwhile, said the group’s achievement serves an important step toward growing the region’s economic base while simultaneously improving quality of life for the residents of Sheridan.
“Tom’s award demonstrates that you can use local talent and compete nationally,” Stender said. “And secondly, the vision and execution of (the project) represents what technology can bring to Sheridan.”
In addition to the national exposure that comes with having won the top award, MobileHealthWare also received a cash prize of $60,000.
Richards said the money will go toward further refining the application and eventually marketing the product on the Apple app store.
“Every dime will go back into developing the app and building the company,” he said
While a final release date has not yet been scheduled, Richards said the team is aiming for a September launch.
Officials at MobileHealthWare are also hoping to develop a base application that will allow the company to use similar technology to aid in the treatment of other types of wounds.
“We feel like there’s a lot of potential for developing other similar tools in the near future,” Richards said.
The Pressure Ulcer Prevention Mobile App Challenge was sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.