SEATTLE — In rural areas that lack local health records, cell phones are connecting clinicians to a database containing over 60,000 patient admissions.
Leo Anthony Celi, the clinical research director of the Laboratory of Computational Physiology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) wrote in a piece for The Conversation about how big data and mobile health are changing doctors’ access to information on a global scale. He saw that doctors rarely have time to look into the constant changes in the medical field. When they do find that time, the new information rarely helps patients on an individual scale.
At Celi’s lab at MIT, researchers compiled information from 60,000 patient admissions to the intensive care units at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Boston teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School, into a large database. This database is called the Medical Information Mart in Intense Care (MIMIC) and allows doctors all over the world to view the past information of patients similar to their own in order to determine the best treatment option for an individual.
To use MIMIC, front-line physicians, such as nurses, pharmacists or doctors, identify the question they want answered, and according to Celi, data scientists then “conduct the appropriate analyses of MIMIC.”
Celi wanted to take this idea to areas of the world that otherwise wouldn’t have access to these health care resources. This led to the 2009 creation of Sana, a company that uses cell phones as a mobile health platform. Since cell phones are common even in poor or rural areas, they’re ideal for an electronic device in areas lacking other health care resources.
The components of the Sana’s mobile health platform include the ability to input patient histories and multimedia information and integration with point-of-care diagnostic devices (Ultrasound, EKG) and any electronic medical record database. Celi wrote that the platform “at its core is an open-source system that uses cell phones […] to collect, transmit and store all sorts of medical data.”
For those involved with the development of the product, Sana has a training session (or “bootcamp”) followed by a collaborative workshop (or “hackathon”). The bootcamp holds intensive two- to four-day programs meant to introduce computer scientists and electrical engineers to mobile health technology while exposing them to the clinical perspectives as well.
At the hackathons, members from multiple disciplines come together to solve the specific problem affecting a region. Engineers are able to immediately apply the concepts and lessons they learned, while clinicians on the front lines are able to meet with local experts on policy, public health and business. By bringing in these local experts, engineers and clinicians are able to hear directly from people who know the problems of the community based on their own experiences and already have an idea of what will and what won’t work.
– Anastazia Vanisko