Health care professionals may soon have a new tool to help treat patients – a pocket-sized technology created by teams from the Medical College of Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee.
Medical and training researchers, faculty and physicians at MCW are working with app developers at UW-Milwaukee’s App Brewery to pilot smartphone apps that could improve medical care.
Imagine how apps can help researchers screen patients for clinical trials more quickly, aid doctors in “stepping down” doses of steroids for young patients and explain the process more clearly to their families, and encourage young people to donate blood.
“We needed a better process to quickly enroll stroke patients in clinical trials,” says Alicia Castonguay, assistant professor of neurology and director of the Stroke, Neurocritical Care, and Neurointerventional (SNN) research center at MCW.
The SNN research team, comprised of physicians, nurses and coordinators, recruits stroke and neurology patients for clinical trials of medical devices and medications. This can be a time-consuming and paper-intensive process. Doctors may have just three to four hours to determine if a patient meets the research study criteria.
“These trials are important to improving treatment, but some patients don’t want to take part, and others aren’t eligible,” Castonguay says. “It’s important to quickly reach out to those who are willing to consent and who are eligible.”
Consent forms, information on participating physicians and other details on who is qualified to participate are currently kept in a study binder. Tracking down the binder quickly when a patient comes into the emergency room at 3 a.m. can be a challenge.
“But almost everyone has a smartphone,” Castonguay says. “I thought: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could provide information about our clinical trials to the primary physician and the patient in real time?”
The opportunity to find out came through a competition that brings doctors and researchers together with student developers from UW-Milwaukee. Founded in a renovated 19th-century – you guessed it – brewery complex in downtown Milwaukee in 2013, the App Brewery soon expanded to include a second location at the university’s Innovation Campus, a neighbor and research partner to the Medical College.
Castonguay and her team submitted a proposal that became the clinical research app REACH, one of the first MCW-UW-Milwaukee projects to be implemented. Following a winter pilot, REACH is scheduled to be in the hands of team members in early 2015.
The collaborative effort has been a learning process for both the medical staff and the student developers, led by then App Brewery Manager Quinn Madson. As graphic design and information technology majors, the student developers at first struggled to understand the medical terminology and health care reasons behind the app. Doctors had to learn how their decisions impacted the programming process.
“I realized when I wanted to make one little tweak to the app, that involved hours and hours of coding,” says Castonguay.
A series of initial meetings between the medical team and the developers helped the teams work out what the users needed and how the developers could meet their needs with an app.
“We’re really working closely with MCW to make sure that the tools we give them are useful and doing what they want to accomplish,” says Madson.
“This collaboration is great. I’m very grateful for the planning that went into it,” says Castonguay, who hopes to get funding to pursue further development of the app after the pilot.
“It’s really great to see an idea come to fruition. This is going to provide us a way to help improve patient access to successful therapies.”
For more information visit www.uwm.edu.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)