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Medical Apps, Public Health, Technology

NIDA accepting proposals of mobile apps designed to help patients take their meds

Have an idea for a mobile device application that would increase patients’ compliance in taking prescribed medications? Now could be your chance to turn that app concept into a reality.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse is currently seeking proposals for just such a tool. According to an institute announcement:

NIDA seeks to develop and test a prototype mobile/tablet technology-based application to provide a low-cost, highly personalized, interactive patient-centric medication adherence tool that improves upon currently available mobile technology-based medication adherence applications.

The submission deadline is Nov. 13 at 5 p.m. Eastern. Full detail are here (.pdf)

Previously: Outfitting pills with microchips to monitor patients’ medication use and Report shows over 60 percent of Americans don’t follow doctors’ orders in taking prescription meds
Photo by Lia Steakley

Medical Apps, Nutrition, Obesity, Pediatrics, Research, Stanford News, Technology

Countdown to Medicine X: Mobile gardening game promotes healthy eating

Countdown to Medicine X: Mobile gardening game promotes healthy eating

Obesity rates among children in the United States have more than tripled in the past three decades. Researchers around the country are working to develop ways to curb the childhood obesity epidemic, including a team from the University of Southern California that will be presenting later this month at the Stanford Medicine X conference. The inaugural conference takes place this Sept. 28-30.

During the three-day conference, USC researcher Donna Spruijt-Metz, PhD, will present findings on an interactive, mobile game designed to teach children gardening skills and encourage them to eat healthily. An abstract on the Medicine X site describes the game, titled “Virtual Sprouts”:

Virtual Sprouts has the potential to revolutionize Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education on obesity, promote healthy food choices and decrease obesity rates in youth. In their web-based garden, children and families will learn to select what crops to plant, plant their own garden, watch it grow, tend the crops, harvest them, and prepare them as part of a healthy diet. Our goal is to positively influence dietary intake and prevent/treat obesity in minority youth through meaningful play. Virtual Sprouts brings a novel combination of technology and teaching to bear on pediatric obesity in urban Los Angeles, and will employ interactive, mobile game techniques, rich narrative, a pedagogical agent, and experiential learning to achieve the aims of the program. To date, we have employed extensive iterative playtesting methodologies to determine optimal game mechanics, and community participatory research techniques to ensure that content and form are optimized to fit community and research needs.

For more information on the conference or to register, visit the Medicine X conference website.

More news about the Medicine X conference is available in the Medicine X category.

Health and Fitness, Medical Apps, NIH, Nutrition, Public Health, Women's Health

NIH releases mobile app to help women identify health risks, maintain a healthy lifestyle

NIH releases mobile app to help women identify health risks, maintain a healthy lifestyle

The National Institutes of Health has launched a new mobile application offering women guidance on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and tips for identifying health risks for themselves, as well as their families.

The app is based on the Office of Research on Women’s Health publication A Primer for Women’s Health: Learn about Your Body in 52 Weeks. Available for free in the Apple App Store or via Google Play, the app provides a year’s worth of research-based health information highlighted week-by-week. According to an NIH release:

Questions to ask health care providers, a glossary of health terms, and health screening information and links to additional information from NIH institutes and centers expand the mobile app’s offerings.

Key features of the app are:

  • a personal health section for recording medications, medical conditions, and disabilities
  • a journal feature
  • a personal goal-setting section for health and lifestyle details

A variety of different skins can be applied to personalize the app, and it can be password-protected to help ensure health information remains confidential.

The NIH plans to launch a similar app for men’s health in the near future.

Previously: Diagnosing ear infections using your iPhone? Not so far-fetched, Stanford medical residents launch iPhone app to help physicians keep current on research and School of Medicine alumni association partners with Doximity to test first-of-its-kind smartphone app
Photo by Jeffrey Pott

In the News, Medical Apps, Pediatrics, Technology

Diagnosing ear infections using your iPhone? Not so far-fetched

Diagnosing ear infections using your iPhone? Not so far-fetched

As a parent, the iPhone has been a godsend – helping me with everything from taking cute photos and videos to keeping up with doctor’s appointments and playdates to providing much-needed entertainment on long car rides. Well, it looks like I can add “checking for ear infections” to that list. A simple attachment would transform my phone into an otoscope, as explained by an article on

The peripheral attaches to the top of an iPhone and provides a 10x magnification. Using CellScope’s web platform, users can upload captured images and pediatricians can remotely assess the severity of the infection. Doctors can then provide a diagnosis, prescribe antibiotics, or recommend the child be brought into the office for a more thorough examination. Additionally, the images enter into the patient’s electronic medical records, so any susceptibilities to infection can be tracked through image comparison throughout the childhood years.

Ear infections are the most common reason children are brought to the doctor. Having this technology available could reduce health-care costs attributed to those visits and give parents a more hands-on role in their child’s health. “It seems pretty obvious that this sort of thing is going to happen… 5 years from now, 10 years from now, people will be able to do diagnosis from home. Patients will have more control over taking data and being a participant in their healthcare delivery,” Erik Douglas, co-founder and CEO of Cellscope, tells Forbes.

The story mentions that pediatricians in the Bay Area and Atlanta are already testing the device and that clinical trials are underway to test its accuracy. Considering both of my girls recently had a bad case of the sniffles (ear infections often follow colds), I could definitely see myself giving this a try. And the idea that I could do a medical diagnosis on my phone? My inner Trekkie is doing cartwheels right about now.

Previously: Stanford medical residents launch iPhone apps to help physicians keep current on researchSchool of Medicine alumni association partners with Doximity to test first-of-its-kind smartphone appUsing an iPhone as an imaging device in developing countries and Mobile phone app helps manage diabetes
Photo by Steve Johnson

Media, Medical Apps, Technology

O’Reilly Radar Q&A looks at how games can improve health

O'Reilly Radar Q&A looks at how games can improve health

There’s a nice Q&A with designer John Ferrara on O’Reilly Radar today about how games can be a “force of cultural transformation.” As part of that conversation, Ferrara discusses how games can be used to improve health and make healthy behavior more fun (or, if you’re a believer in the coming zombie apocalypse, utterly terrifying):

You know, there’s so much really inventive work being done right now. Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of “Zombies, Run!,” and I think it’s great. This is a game for smartphones that overlays a narrative about survivors in a zombie apocalypse onto your daily run. As you’re out getting your exercise, you’re listening to the game events as they unfold, and you can hear the zombies closing in. It’s a great use of fantasy, and it plays as a true game with meaningful choices and conflict.

The video above, originally produced for its developers’ Kickstarter campaign, offers a little more detail about how the “Zombies, Run!” app works. He also touches on how games might play a role in research, citing FoldIt as an example:

This is what’s been called “human computation,” where a group of people work together to solve some complex problem as a by-product of some other action, like playing a game. Luis Von Ahn at Carnegie Mellon describes games as algorithms that are executed by people rather than machines, and I think that’s a really fascinating idea. Foldit is a great example. This is a puzzle game where players try to figure out how to fold chains of proteins. This is a problem that’s very well suited to human computation because it requires a type of intuitive reasoning that’s very difficult for actual computers. Foldit made a big news last fall when the people playing it decoded the structure of a protein related to a virus that causes AIDS in monkeys, which had eluded researchers for years.

In all, it’s an interesting Q&A and well worth reading. And, if you’d like to read more about how games can be used in scientific research, I recommend a 2011 story by my colleague Bruce Goldman about a Stanford/Carnegie Mellon project called EteRNA, which draws on gamers’ skills to accelerate biochemists’ understanding of RNA. I think this is an absolutely fascinating field.

Previously: Mob science: Video game, EteRNA, lets amateurs advance RNA research

Medical Apps, Stanford News

Stanford medical residents launch iPhone app to help physicians keep current on research

Stanford medical residents launch iPhone app to help physicians keep current on research

As evidence-based medicine takes a greater foothold, medical residents and physicians are tasked with the seemingly constant challenge of staying up to date on the latest treatments and drugs. To help their colleagues keep current on medical advancements, Stanford medical residents Dave Iberri, MD, and Manuel Lam, MD, introduced a new medical app that features physician-written summaries of landmark clinical trials.

Lam, a third-year resident with an undergraduate degree in computer science, and Iberri, a second-year resident and an experienced web developer, carved out time from their busy clinical schedules to develop the recently released Journal Club for iPhone (link to iTunes store).

Below Iberri, a second-year medical resident, discusses the motivation for creating the app and how the Stanford medical center community helped shape the final product.

What spurred the creation of this product?

As medical trainees, we furiously jotted down medical acronyms in our notebooks hoping to read these articles on post-call days. But early on we realize that wading through the sea of medicine journals can be overwhelming, if not downright impossible. In the midst of our resident schedules, how can we digest all this content? Which articles should be at the top of our reading list? Passionate about medical education, Manny and I wanted to solve this problem. We sought to put answers at the clinician’s fingertips, immediately accessible at the point of care. Since smartphones, and the iPhone in particular, are revolutionizing the way medicine in practiced, deciding to design an iPhone app was a no-brainer. Thus the Journal Club. Written by physicians, these article summaries are distilled into bite-size morsels that clinicians can digest quickly. Think of it as CliffsNotes for medical research.

Continue Reading »

Medical Apps, Stanford News

School of Medicine alumni association partners with Doximity to test first-of-its-kind smartphone app

School of Medicine alumni association partners with Doximity to test first-of-its-kind smartphone app

The Stanford University Medical Center Alumni Association (SUMCAA) is partnering with Doximity, a social networking service for physicians and health-care professionals, to test a new application for iPhone and Android devices.

The app, which the parties say is the first of its kind for any U.S. medical school, is built on Doximity’s network of over 50,000 physicians. Using the app, alumni can quickly access a searchable directory of published articles, lectures, clinical trials and curriculum vitae, and converse in an alumni-only forum.

The app is being made available starting today to a limited population of medical school alumni. To request access to the test group, please e-mail Doximity’s Taylor Carrol. All SUMCAA members will be able to download the app for free at the end of the month.

Stanford medical student Matt Goldstein, PhD, who is a research fellow with Doximity, commented on the app’s potential to foster collaboration, saying, “Research has shown better communication leads to better care. But like many of my classmates, I’ve had to stop using Facebook. It will be interesting to see what impact this app has on sharing clinical expertise and improving patient care.”

Previously: Stanford-developed iPARS app available for download, Mercury News looks at how clinicians are using medical apps and Study finds more doctors are using smartphones
Photo courtesy of Doximity

Media, Medical Apps, Medical Education, Stanford News

Can battling sepsis in a game improve the odds for material world wins?

Can battling sepsis in a game improve the odds for material world wins?

The first few times I played a new, Web-based and Stanford-designed medical game called Septris, all my patients died. After a few rounds, however, I felt my competitive fire ignite. And with a little more help from the game’s Dr. Sepsis, the better I became at treating sepsis (in the game, anyway), despite a lack of a medical degree. That degree of engagement is the whole point of the game, as I wrote in a story today:

Created by [Lisa Shieh, MD,] and a team of Stanford physicians, researchers and education technology experts, the game can be played on a mobile phone, a tablet such as an iPad, or a computer, and it represents a promising new approach to medical education. The idea is to plug knowledge about treating sepsis into the brains of clinicians who might find learning by digital game more appealing than a lecture, especially if they grew up with Nintendo, Playstation and Xbox. The name of this medical training tool is inspired by one of the world’s most popular computer games, Tetris.

The game’s designers wanted to keep the experience fun, despite the seriousness of the issue. Septris is free, unless players want to earn continuing medical education (CME) credits. In that case, there is a standard $20 CME test fee.

Previously: Rap video teaches how to recognize, treat sepsis in hospitals

Medical Apps, Technology

Examining health-care providers’ perceptions of health games

Over at MobiHealthNews, there’s a thoughtful discussion about the road ahead for health games, which include a range of applications and devices that leverage social-gaming concepts to help users improve their  health.

The post offers an overview of a panel from the recent mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. and touches on a number of challenges that, so far, have prevented health-care providers from accepting games as effective prevention tools and from adopting them in their practice. Chris Gullo writes:

Dr Ravi Komatireddy’s speech examined health games from the clinicians perspective. There are four main issues in physician adoption: efficacy, applicability, perception, and guidance. Efficacy received a positive nod, with Komatireddy noting work done so far by researchers like [Debra Lieberman, PhD,] in proving the effectiveness of health games. Despite this, there are still hurdles to overcome. “In healthcare, we’re slow. We’re like toddlers, we like to break things, we’re skeptical, and we’re really slow to change,” he said. “Some of the responses we get from clinicians [about games for health] are: ‘Isn’t this silly? Is this really applicable to my patients?’, even though there’s lots of supporting [efficacy] data and everyone’s got mobile phones.”

Finally, Komatireddy spoke on guidance and how games would integrated into medical curriculum. “Where’s the how to manual for games for health? As a physician talking to a patient, what do I tell them to go play? Do I prescribe it, or does my nurse do it? What if that game shows improved performance in tracking diabetes? Is someone supposed to get a hold of [the patient]? Is that information dangerous? These are the questions that come up in the clinical world. I’m a believer; I want to use this stuff. But how do you assure me that those problems won’t exist?”

These questions have been raised in other settings as well, and it will be interesting to see what partnerships arise between physicians and developers to provide some answers. Ongoing studies by researchers from universities across the U.S., and additional research underway at Stanford, may prove helpful in resolving these issues.

Previously: Eat a carrot and exercise – or your iBird dies, Mobile devices help remove barriers to fresh food and Mobile phone app helps manage diabetes
Photo by: Mat Honan

Global Health, Imaging, Medical Apps, Technology

Using an iPhone as an imaging device in developing countries

As the prevalence of smartphones grows, so do efforts by researchers and startups to transform the handsets into devices that might one day be used in developing nations. Now a team of researchers at UC Davis has tweaked an iPhone to work as a tool for diagnosing blood-related health conditions or diseases.

The researchers inserted a ball lens, a finely ground glass sphere that acts as low-powered magnifying glasses, into a rubber sheet and then taped the sheet over the smartphone’s camera. Combined with the camera, the lens is capable of resolving features on the order of 1.5 microns, small enough to identify different types of blood cells. Digital imaging software was used to correct any distortions and stitch together overlapping tiny in-focus areas of each image to create a single larger picture.

A MSNBC story posted yesterday explains how the re-engineered iPhone may prove useful to health-care providers working in remote locations:

The ball lenses can already reveal signs of iron deficiency anemia or the deformed red blood cells of sickle cell anemia, but larger lenses could help diagnose skin disease. Better software might count and indentify blood cells for an even wider range of diseases.

By swapping in a spectrometer for the lens, researchers can also use iPhones to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood and diagnose diseases based on their chemical markers. Spectrometers break up light into separate wavelengths – similar to how a glass prism separates white light into rainbow colors – so that researchers can identify the chemical “fingerprint” created by molecules absorbing certain wavelengths.

Previously: Stanford-developed iPARS app available for download, Study shows smart phones speed up diagnosis and Foundation launches contest to develop AI physician

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