Oral cancer is a silent killer with a five-year mortality rate higher than both cervical and prostate cancers. With early detection the cure rate approaches 90%, but symptoms can easily be missed by the naked eye. A scientist discovered that controlled wavelengths of light can allow a dentist to identify abnormal tissue through fluorescence and highlight vasculature through reflectance. Three wavelengths of light are necessary to perform a full exam, and the dentist must be able to easily cycle through them. M3’s challenge was to create the platform and delivery system with this technology and be in the market within 9 months.
The design is based on something that users are already comfortable with– the dental exam mirror. By cleverly packaging two LEDs that generate three wavelengths of light, the Identafi is able to screen for oral cancer with superior accuracy. Light selection is controlled by a patented selector ring on the body of the wand and is actuated easily with the left or right hand. This enables the user to focus on a specific area without removing the Identafi from the oral cavity to switch lights. A clear disposable mirror attachment allows dentists and hygienists to view hard to reach areas in any light mode. This feature also reduces the complexity of the user work-flow by eliminating the need to autoclave the sensitive electronics while providing a recurring revenue stream.
The Identafi is the only standalone intra-oral soft tissue screener on the market today. It eliminates the need for unpleasant dye rinses and its small form factor is easy to use. Identafi is also the only screening device of any kind to utilize Green-Amber light, which helps dentists confirm suspicious tissue discovered with the Ultraviolet light to avoid mis-diagnosis. The combination of size, technology and usability makes the Identafi like no other product on the market. By helping dentists and hygienists look beneath the surface of soft tissue, Identafi dramatically improves early cancer detection rates. With regular screenings, this device will help save lives.
STRATEGY: M3 performed contextual user research to gain an in-depth understanding of current dental office work-flows, usability needs, and stakeholder identification. Key systems and constraints were documented, including sterilization requirements, UV protection, and power management. Direction for the product’s overall aesthetics was obtained from key stakeholders using a variety of tools designed to ensure the final product faithfully represented the brand promise.
CONCEPT: A series of empathic bodystorming exercises helped the team determine the ergonomic and functional challenges posed by the device. A range of concepts were developed that allowed the user to toggle between light modes during an exam without removing the device from the patient’s mouth while maintaining ambidextrous operation. Potential power management and optical solutions were explored and evaluated in the M3 lab. Material alternatives that were appropriate to the usage environment, product aesthetics, and thermal management were identified.
DEVELOPMENT: Extensive prototyping was performed to validate critical product design decisions, including optical management, thermal testing, and ergonomic evaluation. Different materials and grip features were tested to ensure maximum usability of the light selector ring while achieving the desired form. A set of complementary products were created, including a storage system and packaging designed for a superior out of box experience. The final design was implemented in CAD with extensive, technical, regulatory and DFX reviews and delivered to the supply chain for manufacture within 6 months of start.