During the second half of the spring 2014 semester, graduate students in the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business developed mobile health applications. Their mission targeted challenges to patient-consumers posed by diabetes, elder care, urgent-care logistics, obesity and treatment selection.
The effort culminated in a recent pitch competition judged by health IT experts, including Smith faculty who guided the students through the corresponding Master of Science in Business: Information Systems class “Engineering Mobile Apps for Health.”
A Google Glass-based “FitnessMe” application stood out and captured first place. Wristband and smartphone-activated, the app tracks and displays -- via the Glass -- movement speed and distance, plus calories burned and heart rate. It further incorporates GPS for navigating running, walking or cycling routes and social media for logging and sharing details of the activity. View a brief demo of the app.
The runner-up “BlueScope” uses a Bluetooth-integrated stethoscope to speed diagnoses in rural, urgent care and home health settings by recording and transmitting heart sound and rhythm to an experienced clinician for consultation.
“Mobile applications are the wave of the future in broad terms of how we communicate,” said competition judge Howard Haft, M.D., CEO of EZHealthAccess – a Web-based provider of free, public access to digital health resources. “This revolution is well underway in many business sectors, but it’s just beginning in terms of health applications.”
Two of the other apps address obesity: “Recommender” and “Eat it, Burn it,” alternatively calculate calorie intake from food consumption and recommend the duration and intensity of exercise necessary to optimally burn the extra calories and reach goals.
“The students significantly experienced conceiving and prototyping mobile applications that drive engagement with one’s own wellness, including the use of various sensors and wearable tech, along with assessing the myriad factors that make building solutions in the health care space so fascinating,” said Kenyon Crowley, deputy director of Smith’s Center for Health Information & Decision Systems (CHIDS), who conceived and co-taught the class with UMD computer science professor Atif Memon.
The remaining applications target lower-income consumers, elderly individuals and diabetes patients. “Diabetes Journal” incorporates blood glucose monitoring with dietary recommendations and reminders. “My Hospital Appraiser” calculates treatment and procedure charges and quality scores -- according to location -- using open data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and “Life Guardian” is a medical alert app driven by motion-sensor technology for elderly persons.
“Kudos to Kenyon for helping make this initial course offering a very valuable student experience,” said CHIDS co-director and Decision, Operations and Information Technology associate professor Guodong “Gordon” Gao. “The students really seized this opportunity and were dedicated to their projects for the duration.”
Haft said the participating students “represent a leading edge of a brave new world” in terms of mobile health. “It's great to see they're thinking in a variety of different ways about how to approach common problems in health care,” he said. “They’ve put their teeth into it and that's so important. Look for them to be catalysts for future solutions.”
The Center for Health Information & Decision Systems (CHIDS) is an academic research center in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland at College Park. CHIDS works in collaboration with industry, clinical and government partners to develop solutions to the challenges surrounding the design, adoption and integration of information technologies into the health system. The research at CHIDS seeks to understand how digital technologies can be more effectively deployed to address outcomes such as patient safety, healthcare quality, efficiency in healthcare delivery, and a reduction in health disparities. Since its inception in 2005, CHIDS has served as a focal point for thought leadership around the topic of digitally-enabled health system transformation.