Irish medical support app to be showcased at TEDMED

Irish PhD student Siobhán O’Connor will showcase the Supporting LIFE app at the annual TEDMED conference taking place in Washington in September this year.

The University College Cork student has led the development of the project, called ‘Supporting Low-cost Intervention For disEase control (LIFE) which will support healthcare workers in remote and low-resource areas.

It is well known that mobile apps can make it easier for clinicians to learn new skills, to pull up patient records, and even track the rise or fall of diseases simply by tapping the screen.

Siobhán who is currently in her first year of a PhD in health informatics at UCC was delighted to be awarded a TEDMED scholarship to attend the conference in the states.

“TEDMED only issues a handful each year and the scholarship is open to people from all disciplines and backgrounds so it’s very competitive and I was delighted to receive one,” she says. “I have been watching TEDMED online for years so to get the opportunity to attend in person is really exciting.”

At the event, Siobhán will be presenting the app, which is based on the Community Case Management Programme developed by the World Health Organisation. The current programme helps frontline workers in low-resource settings to diagnose, assess or treat children who are ill, the app could make this process easier in time;

“The current guidelines are paper-based, which is cumbersome and slow to use,” she says. “So by digitising them we want to make the process more efficient and effective, and lead to better health outcomes for children.”

The idea for the app came from Dr Joe Gallagher, who was working in Malawi, He saw the need for better training and resources for frontline healthcare professionals working in local clinics.

The doctor-patient ratio in Malawi is about 1 : 88,000, “this means healthcare workers take on a lot of responsibility in managing day-to-day healthcare. But their training is limited and they often work in isolated areas with a finite amount of equipment, drugs and other resources, so they face challenges every day in delivering good quality healthcare.” Siobhán explains.

“The app will also double up as a real-time disease-monitoring solution as the data it collects can be used to track a variety of childhood illnesses, such as malaria, pneumonia and infantile diarrhoea, to name a few.”