The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » Monthly - June 3, 2015
Medicine
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Tracking Vitals with a Smartphone
   
Telemedicine tools and applications are becoming increasingly common among patients and doctors these days. Among those creating such devices is Polish company Silvermedia from the southern city of Cracow.

Telemedicine, or the use of information and telecommunications technology to provide clinical healthcare at a distance, enables patients, including elderly people, to interact with their doctors by taking their vital signs and sending the data for evaluation. Silvermedia has created a special, user-friendly system for this purpose.

The system, described as a modular telemedicine IT platform, consists of applications available through web browsers and mobile devices. The platform is available online and provides services to different medical users. New modules continue to be added to make sure the platform covers various areas of medicine. These include cardiology, diabetology, audiology, allergology and geriatrics.

“We work with leading cardiologists, allergists, geriatricians, neurologists and diabetologists—professors, heads of the largest clinics, and national consultants,” says JarosławBułka, Ph.D., vice-president of Silvermedia. “Their authority is a guarantee of the quality of the medical solutions provided. Together we build systems to enable patients to contact their doctors from a distance. These systems also enable doctors of various specialties to work together.”

The research is conducted jointly with the Institute of Cardiology, the Medical University of Warsaw, the capital’s Children’s Memorial Health Institute, and the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing in Kajetany near Warsaw.

In a project co-financed by the National Center for Research and Development (NCBR), Silvermedia is developing a system for screening patients for cardiac problems and allergies. The project started in July 2013 and ends later this year. The project’s budget is more than zl.4.6 million. Of this, more than zl.2 million comes from the European Regional Development Fund under the Innovative Economy Operational Programme. Silvermedia received the money through Poland’s National Center for Research and Development.

The Silvermedia team consists of more than 50 IT, robotics and biocybernetics experts. They are carrying out the project in consultation with experienced allergists and cardiologists.

The cardiac screening module will combine an online telemedicine platform with a range of miniature, mobile, diagnostic devices such as an electrocardiograph, a blood pressure monitor, a pair of scales, and a pulse oximeter.

The allergy module will come with tools to assess the risk of the occurrence of a specific type of allergy or asthma.

“Our solutions are designed for the average user, not for professionals or IT specialists,” says Bułka, adding that the software is simple and easy to use. Elderly users have no problem handling the applications available for smartphones and tablets, according to Bułka. All they have to do is connect the blood pressure monitor, blood glucose monitor or a mobile electrocardiograph and enter the results of the measurements, he says.

A patient sends the data to a diagnostic center where it is evaluated. A diagnosis is then sent back to the patient or their family.

“The aim is to improve the quality of life for patients,” says Bułka. “We monitor the quality of healthcare and provision of medical services. We have been singled out for praise by the Foundation of Universities of the Third Age for our system to support companies providing long-term care to dependent people. Importantly, the award was granted on the basis of the opinions of elderly people.”

Silvermedia’s system has been used by local authorities to screen selected groups, such as senior citizens and schoolchildren, for cardiac problems, hearing impairments and allergies. Such campaigns have been carried out in Warsaw, for example, where the program was run by City Hall together with the Medical University of Warsaw and the Children’s Memorial Health Institute. The Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing in Kajetany regularly uses Silvermedia’s telemedicine platform to screen schoolchildren for hearing problems.

“A group of children from Warsaw sports academies has been screened for allergies and cardiac problems using our platform,” says Bułka. A special questionnaire was employed to assess the risk of asthma and allergy. After filling it out, each child received a score that indicated the risk group they were classified into. “Those from the high-risk group are advised to see a specialist because an untreated allergy may lead to complications or directly to asthma. Our tool makes it possible to quickly respond to specific symptoms, which are often played down and misinterpreted as not associated with allergies,” says Bułka.

A similar campaign has been conducted together with the Institute of Cardiology where sports academy students were examined with portable electrocardiographs. The data was sent to the monitoring center by cell phone. Cardiologists assessed the data remotely, using special medical data analysis algorithms developed by Silvermedia.

Karolina Olszewska