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Mobile app significantly speeds up detection of potentially fatal kidney condition

06/08/2019

A new mobile phone app that helps speed up the detection of a potentially fatal kidney condition has been described as a “potential lifesaver” by hospital staff. The app, known as Streams, is able to detect acute kidney injury in 14 minutes (on average). Until now, this process would have taken at least several hours. This is highly significant as acute kidney injury can begin to affect other organs if it is not treated quickly. One in five people who are admitted to hospital develop acute kidney injury and it leads to around 100,000 deaths in the UK each year. The app works by looking for a waste product called creatinine, something that is normally filtered out by a person’s kidneys. It then sends warning signals to front-line clinicians’ phones if a patient’s blood tests indicate they have acute kidney failure. Streams was developed by the Royal Free Hospital in London and technology firm DeepMind, which is owned by Alphabet. Speaking to the BBC, Mary Emerson, lead nurse specialist at the Royal Free Hospital, said: “It's a huge change to be able to receive alerts about patients anywhere in the hospital. Healthcare is mobile and real time, and this is the first device that has enabled me to see results in a mobile real-time way.” The findings of the app trial are published in the journal Nature Digital Medicine.

Mental health apps could be contributing to overdiagnosis

04/09/2018

There’s a mobile application (app) for just about everything nowadays, including helping us deal with our wellbeing. These so-called mental health apps often provide help and comfort for the people who use them, but new research suggests they could be missing the mark by quite some way. According to researchers from The University of Sydney and The University of Adelaide, both in Australia, there could be some major problems with how mental health apps frame mental illness (diagnose it) and the advice they give for dealing with it. For the research, a qualitative content analysis of 61 mental health apps from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia was conducted. The main problem that was identified was a tendency to promote medicalization of normal mental health states, leading to overdiagnosis. Furthermore, the apps encouraged people to use them frequently and promoted “personal responsibility” for improvement of conditions. While any form of medical self-help, including apps, can be useful, they should only form part of an overall plan for coping with mental illness. The bottom line is that people should never rely solely on apps and seek help from a therapist if they are concerned about their mental health. Relying on technology, unfortunately, does have its limitations.

The local surgery app that could help save lives in Africa

14/03/2017

It is hoped that a new mobile app developed in Canada could help treat millions of patients in Africa. MOST, or mobile optimised skill training, is an application that can be accessed on a tablet or smartphone which helps accelerate the number of healthcare workers that can be taught essential surgical skills. The brainchild of Vancouver-based surgeon and UBC surgical professor Dr. Ronald Lett, MOST was brought to life by Surrey, B.C. tech company Conquer Mobile and will be provided by the Canadian Network for International Surgery (CNIS) for free. Unlike existing face-to-face courses, which are usually taught by doctors visiting Africa to limited groups, MOST will facilitate the sharing of skills in the community long after visiting teams have left.  At present, there are 5 mobile training courses available in MOST, but another 7 are planned for the future. The new technology will be used to train 25,000 African healthcare workers and treat 2 million patients over the next 3 years. [caption id="attachment_3741" align="alignnone" width="620"] Dr. Ronald Lett has been teaching surgical skills to healthcare workers in Sub-Saharan Africa for 22 years. (Image credit: Ronald Lett)[/caption]   "The problem is there is a huge demand for surgical education, limited funding, and therefore we feel that we can optimize training, by having it available using newer technology," said Lett. African healthcare workers will be able to download the app onto their smartphone or tablet and go through the academic knowledge part using games and skills questions. There will also be avatars which react and provide feedback as though the individual were practising on a real life patient. Today, women in Africa are 10 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in the Americas. Furthermore, 13% of Africans will die as a result of an injury. The MOST app will be tested by CNIS in Ethiopia and Rwanda this spring or early summer.

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