Stories about: Mobile health

Stages for invention: Health devices and more from the next generation

Woman assembles Solarclave
Researcher Anna Young of MIT's Little Devices Lab works on a solar-powered autoclave for sterilizing medical instruments
(Image: Jose Gomez-Marquez)

“It’s a robot…it brings the remote.”

A kid in a striped shirt who looks to be going into the second or third grade reluctantly explains his cardboard and foam creation, a boxy figure with four wheels and a grabbing arm. He’s taken his invention from paper design through model through an imagined cover of TIME magazine, joined by countless other children who have designed everything from rockets to surprisingly detailed wind turbines.

I’m at the MIT Museum, and today it is overrun with inventors. Upstairs, younger visitors are invited to invent and model their own creations—like the remote-getting robot—and downstairs people gather to see presentations and prototypes by students working in MIT labs. This event is Insight into Innovation, the mad invention of the museum’s summer interns, and it’s a natural fit for MIT’s Little Devices Lab, a medical research group with a do-it-yourself twist whose offices are right above the museum. Three groups from that lab are exhibiting.

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Seizure detection: It’s all in the wrist

seizure wristband
This wristband can sound an alarm when a child is having a seizure, and can help doctors better time medication dosing.

Seizures are often hard to track in children with epilepsy, making it difficult for doctors to optimize their treatment. For parents, the greatest worry is that their child will have a life-threatening seizure in the middle of the night or away from home, unable to get help. And what about when that child goes off to college?

“Every parent asks, ‘What can I do to prevent my child from harm?’” says Tobias Loddenkemper, MD, a neurologist in the Epilepsy Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Loddenkemper also wanted to better understand his patients’ seizure patterns so he could better time the dosing of their medications. He’s been testing a wristband sensor system, developed by Rosalind Picard, ScD, and colleagues at the MIT Media Lab (Epilepsia, March 20), and thinks it could be part of the solution.

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Empowering patients: Intelligent devices and apps for better health

Melinda Tang, MEng, is a software developer for the Innovation Acceleration Program at  Boston Children’s Hospital.

When children return home from the hospital after surgery, parents can be overwhelmed by the written information and instructions for follow-up. At the MIT Media Lab’s Health and Wellness Hackathon earlier this year, the focus was on empowering patients to take an active role in their health. As my colleague Brian Rosman described, our team from Boston Children’s Hospital attended and spent two weeks developing “Ralph,” a mobile application for managing post-operative care that incorporates an avatar and features of gaming to engage and motivate children to follow their regimen. I was one of the primary programmers for our group.

We won third place, working alongside five other talented teams. Here are some snapshots of what they were up to — helping patients manage asthma, diabetes, pain, cardiac rehab and more.

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Could texting patients reduce hospital readmissions? Thinking through an innovation

(Lars Plougmann/Flickr)

Your child has been in the hospital and it’s discharge day. It’s a chaotic scene: You’re trying to take care of him and maybe his little sister who keeps running down the hall, while completing hospital paperwork and packing your bags.

You’re finally out the door, in your car, kids strapped in and … what?  You’ve just lost contact with the medical professionals who took care of your son. What was it they said to do at home again?

Perhaps you try phoning but can’t get through to your doctor. Or you try to email through the hospital’s secure system, but can’t put your hands on the password. The doctors hope you remember to pick up your son’s meds.

Vinny Chiang, a physician at Children’s Hospital Boston, came up with a simple idea. Could day-after communication with patients be “pushed” — proactive and automated? Could it be texted?

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3 smartphone health apps you might not have expected

Melinda Tang, MEng, is a software developer for the Innovation Acceleration Program at Children’s Hospital Boston. This post is the first of a series highlighting fun and helpful mobile health applications and other interesting apps that developers in health care can learn from.

With more than 1 million mobile apps available today, there’s no doubt that mobile devices are changing the way we operate. With the push of a button or tap of a screen, we can turn our smartphones from entertainment consoles to travel guides to personal health monitors. One report estimates that a half billion people will be using mobile health apps by 2015.

Here are a few interesting examples I shared with the Mobile Apps working group at Children’s Hospital Boston, to inform our growing cadre of app developers and other health-IT-minded folks. These apps provide innovative solutions to problems you may never have thought your cell phone could solve — and in ways you might not have expected.

Mosquito Buster is an extremely simple app that lets you use your phone to replace standard mosquito repellants such as sprays and candles. Turn on the app, and your phone will emit a high-frequency pitch

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10 market questions for valuing mobile health apps

A mobile developer at work (Jennifer 8 Lee/Flickr)

Keeley Wray (@Market_Spy) is technology marketing specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Technology and Innovation Development Office. Her post first appeared on Hospital Impact and is re-posted here with kind permission.

My role at Children’s Hospital Boston is to determine market entry strategies to transform the innovative ideas our physicians come up with into nifty products.

Increasingly, this includes valuing new mobile applications. There are sets of questions I like to ask inventors (and myself) to determine whether a product is worth investing resources in. Given the limited resources available to develop new applications, it’s important to know whether an application will provide value to patients, within our institution and externally, and (a harder question) whether it could be commercially viable. Several commercial barriers tend to come up repeatedly, such as security challenges, limited market size, or difficulty integrating applications with EMR systems.

That’s why this question list has served me well–and maybe it will you.

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