Two Queen’s University students who won top honours for a proposed mobile electronic health tool for expectant mothers hope their creation will help patients get onboard with the concept of e-health records, while being a positive story amid the recent controversy in Canada.
Both third-year commerce students, Kayleigh Roberts and Ben Richards, 20, placed first at the Agfa HealthCare eHealth Innovation Competition for a tool that lets high-risk and first-time pregnant women stay abreast of changes to their condition throughout the term.
“It’s essentially your patient portal online,” said Richards, who is also studying for a computer science degree.
The connected Web-based environment serves as a central repository of data compiled from e-health records and from the patient to create a customized dashboard of medical information.
When the patient makes daily inputs of data into the system about her physical condition, blood pressure and weight for instance, these measurements are then compared against her normal levels as determined by her e-health data.
“The biggest concern is in high-risk pregnancies or first-time pregnancies and knowing constantly whether the unborn child is alive and okay and if the pregnancy is progressing normally,” said Roberts.
The idea is that a health-care technology provider will offer the service, perhaps by subscription, to patients. Through the connected environment, when the system detects an abnormal level, a notification is sent to the health-care technology provider, whose medical staff then notify the patient’s doctor.
“(The patient) can be followed up on and receive immediate medical treatment,” said Roberts.
The system is also a good way to introduce Canadians to what Roberts called “this new age of electronic health record.”
Amid all the recent scandal of mismanaged investment in Canada’s e-health program, Richards said proposals like this one demonstrate the value of e-health in a very tangible way. “I think it’s a bright point to highlight in that there’s such negativity around e-health right now especially in Canada and money that has gone into it and the results people can’t see,” said Richards.
While the concept of e-health records and housing medical data online is certainly a leap for many, Richards said first-time pregnancies typically represent a younger demographic that is a lot more comfortable with the Web.
“They are a lot more tech-savvy than they would have been in the last generation … we think technology will catch on a lot more faster with them,” said Richards.
The system is built to keep data secure so it doesn’t fall in the wrong hands, said Richards. “If an insurance company had access to your medical information, it would change the whole outlook of how they would subscribe you life insurance,” he said.
The Agfa HealthCare eHealth Innovation Competition is one vehicle the company is using to encourage youth in Ontario to think about how they can use health-care IT to drive efficiency and improve patient care, said Jeff Nesbitt, head of government relations and strategic programs with Agfa HealthCare Canada.
“We’re looking to students almost of a younger generation to look at these problems and think outside box,” said Nesbitt.
The 30 proposals from nine post-secondary schools were judged by a panel of experts from the public and private sector. Students were rated on the degree to which their proposal is technically innovative, a good market fit, and novel. Presentation skills were also a criteria.
Last year’s winning proposal, a blood thinning community management system, is patent-pending under the students’ name but on Agfa’s dime. Nesbitt said there are several routes that could follow should Roberts and Richards make a successful pitch next week, including spinning out the technology as a joint venture.
Roberts and Richards, who spoke to ComputerWorld Canada the morning before leaving for Belgium, envision their technology extending beyond pregnancy to monitoring baby development and mother care. “It grows with the child,” said Roberts. Other patient groups requiring frequent monitoring are also possible target market markets.