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 explained.
“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 record systems.
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 impossible today.”