ScaleMed: A New Open-Source mHealth Platform
Researchers at Rice are creating an open-source platform to
fast-track lab prototypes to clinical trials.
A recent New York Times story noted that smartphones are becoming life’s remote
control. Besides making calls, they can run diagnostics on our cars, turn our
lights out and our sprinklers on, and even monitor things like cardiac health.
The amount one can accomplish while mobile is on a rapid rise. However, mobile
healthcare has yet to make the impact it could – primarily, say researchers at
Rice University, because there is a bottleneck between potential shown in research
labs and evidence-based adoption of new innovations in healthcare.
ECE faculty members Ashutosh Sabharwal, Lin Zhong
and Ashok Veeraraghavan have received a $400,000 grant from the NationalScience Foundation with a $150,000 match from Rice University, to create an
open-source platform to accelerate the progress of mobile health technologies,
from lab prototypes to at-scale clinical trials, paving the way for evidence-based
adoption in clinical practice.
“What we plan to develop is a modular open-source platform
to enable health researchers to not only do the actual research and development,
but they can use the same platform to do clinical trials,” PI Sabharwal
“There is a gap between the lab, the research, and what you
need to actually do the clinical trial, which needs to comply with regulations
and participant privacy among other issues. With ScaleMed, researchers can use
one platform, from a project's start in the lab all the way to clinical trials.”
The team will develop hardware adaptors to connect new
innovative healthcare devices to smartphones. Complementing hardware
development, the researchers will develop modules, support libraries and fully-functional
app templates, to facilitate rapid development of customized apps that can be
used for clinical trials. They are also working on a cloud storage system to
allow HIPAA-compliant remote client management and synchronization with health
The first beta-use of ScaleMed is envisioned to be on Rice
campus – in Scalable Health projects, the ELEC 419 Innovation Lab and by Senior
Design teams. As the platform matures, the team hopes that other researchers
will begin to adopt and expand the platform.
“We are building a framework,” Sabharwal said. “Our first
target is education and research. Our second is that our work complements the
efforts of clinical and engineering researchers. By adopting an open-source
model, we want to pave the way for researchers to share their codebase,
allowing easy replication of mobile health studies, something which is nearly