Enabling mHealth Solutions in Developing Countries

Researcher: Drew Hall (UC San Diego)
Location: United States

Project Description

Smartphone

Mobile-phone based mHealth devices dramatically reduce the cost and reach of healthcare in low- and middle-income countries due to deep penetration of smartphones and lack of centralized healthcare infrastructure commonly found in highly developed countries. In this work, the researcher will address this need by developing a smartphone-based platform that can be easily combined with a wide range of sensing technologies to enable mHealth solutions that seamlessly integrate with information and communication technology. The project plans to develop the underlying technology needed to harvest power from mobile phones and the ability to bi-directionally communicate with the mobile phone over the audio jack.

The project aims to develop a modular electronic module from which any number of sensors can be easily added, and mobile phone software to interface with the module.

The team will work with programmers from the UC San Diego Qualcomm Institute to develop a generic software stack for a phone that powers and communicates with the module. The hardware and software will be publically available for anyone to easily add a specialized sensor.

This research will not only be positively disruptive to the medical community, but also to the computer and mobile communications industries. The mHealth devices this research will enable are not intended to replace doctors or the diagnostic tools available in hospitals, but have tremendous potential in developing countries where medical infrastructure is lacking or simply does not exist.

In this scenario, the device could be used for diagnosis of infectious diseases such as HIV or tuberculosis. Alternatively, the device could be used to monitor and track therapy as well as patient adherence for long term or chronic illnesses such as cystic fibrosis. By moving away from costly and complex biomolecular detection platforms that are constrained to centralized laboratories, we can design medical diagnostic tools which are both cost effective and permit individuals to take an active part in their own health care. This development serves to democratize health care by making it low cost and available to everyone.