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Home / Health Care / A low-tech solution for high-impact health care – MIT News

A low-tech solution for high-impact health care – MIT News

Over 17 million individuals around the globe are pressured to flee their houses by battle or persecution annually. After enduring the lengthy and treacherous passage to security, many refugees arrive at settlement camps affected by malnutrition and dehydration and require medical consideration on website.

Most illnesses are simply treatable if correctly recognized, however speaking throughout languages and cultures might be troublesome. Patients typically wrestle to convey their signs, and docs fear they could be lacking essential info. To complicate issues, docs jot sufferers’ medical notes on paper, which may end up in incomplete and illegible info being recorded. Further, every time a refugee strikes to a different camp, a brand new document needs to be began for the person, making it exhausting to take care of a constant medical historical past over time. 

There’s no scarcity of apps designed to deal with the present refugee disaster. Rather than impose a completely new system or know-how, a workforce of MIT undergraduate, graduate, and PhD college students from a number of disciplines got down to develop a solution that acknowledges and helps present workflows that additionally helps overcome time, language, and cultural obstacles in physician-affected person interactions to enhance general medical care for refugees.

Introducing Sajal

Sajal (which means “record” in Arabic) is a light-weight digital medical report that refugees can carry round with them on their journey.

Patients start by finishing a one-time registration type with their identify, date of start, nation of origin, nationality and languages spoken, together with a number of easy metrics like peak, weight and blood sort. A QR code is then generated for sufferers to hold between camps and nations and maintain for the long run on their telephones, a prized possession and lifeline for most refugees.

To entry a affected person’s info, docs merely want a QR code reader to view the person’s medical historical past on-line. In addition, they will document notes by textual content or voice immediately onto the affected person’s web page. The platform will then routinely transcribe and translate the notes, that are additionally searchable throughout languages utilizing IBM’s speech-to-textual content API. This means, docs are capable of see if somebody has had a historical past of issues in a selected space and may achieve this with out worrying about miscommunication with the affected person.

Leveraging know-how to deal with present international issues 

The concept for Sajal happened as a part of VHacks, the primary-ever hackathon held on the Vatican City in Rome on the weekend of March Eight-11. Student organizers from Harvard University and MIT labored with the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications and OPTIC — a worldwide assume tank devoted to moral problems with disruptive applied sciences — to coordinate the historic occasion.

Organizers invited universities to offer groups, and an open software allowed any scholar enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program to use. The MIT Innovation Initiative —a cross-faculty effort to strengthen and promote innovation and entrepreneurship — put out an area name for candidates to convey this distinctive alternative to MIT college students. After reviewing purposes and conducting interviews, the 5 college students that greatest demonstrated actual curiosity, dedication, and the power to creatively drawback-remedy, have been chosen for the workforce. The Innovation Initiative, with further help from the MIT Sloan School of Management and Office of International Programs, coated journey and incidentals for the scholars whereas lodging and meals through the occasion have been offered by VHacks.

Over the course of the 36-hour problem, 120 college students representing 30 nations and 6 universities got here up with a complete of 24 concepts that leveraged know-how to deal with present international issues centered on the hackathon’s theme areas of social inclusion, interfaith dialogue, and migrants and refugees. 

“We intentionally spent more time than the average team to ideate and conduct primary market research in order to ensure that the solution we built was actually solving an important problem and not just one we made up on the spot,” says Neil Gokhlay, an MBA candidate at MIT Sloan School.

Their concept got here collectively once they have been capable of join instantly with a physician based mostly in Rome who volunteers her time at refugee camps by means of considered one of their mentors. “We interviewed the doctor in order to understand her pain points, and after coming up with a solution, we ran our idea by her to make sure we were really addressing the problems. It was through this process that we realized there were communication issues and a lack of health record management for refugees in these camps,” Gokhlay says.

After the hacking interval got here to an finish, the scholars presented their concept to a panel of judges earlier than being chosen to maneuver onto the ultimate spherical by which 9 groups pitched their tasks in entrance a reside viewers. Teams have been evaluated based mostly on the viability of their challenge, the potential influence that venture can have, and the know-how used to construct the challenge.

At the top of the day, prizes have been awarded in every of the three theme areas, with Sajal profitable second place and $1,000 within the class of migrants and refugees.  

An unconventional take

According to the organizers of VHacks, the inspiration for the occasion got here partially from a TED Talk by Pope Francis final yr through which he stated, “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion.”

It was a viewpoint that resonated with many college students, together with Sam Kim, a PhD candidate in electrical engineering and pc science. “I was particularly excited about VHacks due to its unique nature of problem and philosophy. As the outreach chair for the Sidney-Pacific Graduate Housing at MIT for the last two years, I am quite involved in community service in the Boston area, but I wanted to gain more exposure to the diverse set of problems people are experiencing, and I do believe VHacks certainly broadened my perspective.”

Mechanical engineering sophomore Claire Traweek appreciated particularly the emphasis all through the weekend on understanding present issues and constructing one thing sustainable. “The organizers seemed very intent on supporting meaningful projects into the long term, instead of having everything die out after a weekend. Because of this, I felt that VHacks might be a good opportunity to work on something potentially useful, and a starting point for something genuinely helpful,” she stated, including, “I was not wrong.”

Jessy Lin, an electrical engineering and pc science undergraduate and a common participant and organizer of hackathons, together with HackMIT, concurs: “’Move fast and break things,’ the typical mantra of Silicon Valley, doesn’t apply when these complex problems with peoples’ lives are at stake. It takes a deep understanding of the scope and nature of these problems and continued engagement past the weekend, which is what we’re trying to do with Sajal.”

A 36-hour concept from idea to impression

Fueled by the expertise of coming collectively as a group and constructing one thing they assume can have an actual influence on those that want it most, Gokhlay, Lin, and Traweek — together with teammate Juliet Wanyiri, a graduate scholar in built-in design and administration — all agree Sajal is an effort value persevering with.

“We are passionate about this project and we want to keep the ball rolling,” says Gohklay. “It’s a project where we can leverage both our technical skills and our emphatic desire to help others.”

The group is particularly proud they have been capable of take a human-centered strategy to tackling the issues confronted by migrants and refugees and that by placing individuals’s wants on the middle, as an alternative of the know-how, they have been capable of provide you with a solution that has quick worth to people.

According to the scholars, the refugee physician that helped them design their preliminary prototype is already on board and excited to pilot Sajal together with her sufferers. They hope to increase their consumer base to further docs on the similar website earlier than launching the platform at different refugee camps inside Italy. Eventually, their aim is to launch Sajal worldwide.

In the meantime, as hackathon code is notoriously messy, the scholars are within the midst of sprucing the know-how and might be including a lot of options they didn’t have time for earlier, together with machine studying for diagnostic help, privateness and authentication measures to guard affected person knowledge, and SMS registration. To help their work on Sajal for the long run, the workforce has already utilized to a few seed grants and is actively wanting round for different assets throughout MIT’s innovation and entrepreneurship panorama.


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