From augmented reality to social networking in hospitals: tech to take charge of your health

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Posted October 20, 2015

Lost? Whether mentally or geographically, many would agree that feeling lost and out-of-control can impact the process of healing or staying fit rather negatively. Yet today’s huge high-throughput hospitals make it impossible to feel noticed, and often leave patients feeling helpless as soon as they walk in the door.

“H-Compass” navigation with augmented reality could make complicated hospital halls a lot more manageable. Screenshot from H-Compass video by Mirana Randriambelonoro. See video below.

“H-Compass” navigation with augmented reality could make complicated hospital halls a lot more manageable. Screenshot from H-Compass video by Mirana Randriambelonoro. See all videos below.

Enthusiasts from a range of disciplines have opted to find simple, yet powerful technological solutions for this problem at THE Port humanitarian hackathon (reported in more detail here) earlier this month. Working with advisors from the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG), the teams came up with several app-based solutions to allow patients take charge of their health – both literally and metaphorically.

“Be in the loop, stay in the loop”

Team “Medspitality” proposed to empower patients in long hospital stays through a multifaceted app, which tracks appointments, treatment and medication regime, as well as relationships with your doctors and nurses in the hospital. Not only that, one of the conceptual ideas proposed by the team is to include “proximity tracking” into the package, which would allow to see which hospital staff is nearby, who is available and who is not to be disturbed.

Proximity sensors could help the patient identify who is walking nearby, and whether they are available for chat or assistance. Screenshot from Medspitality video by Simon Schneebeli. See video below.

Proximity sensors could help the patient identify who is walking nearby, and whether they are available for chat or assistance. Screenshot from Medspitality video by Simon Schneebeli. See video below.

The hope is that such a system would help ensure more quality time between patients and their doctors. Besides, the ability to tap into the hospital’s staff personal profiles might also make patients more connected to their healers – e.g., perhaps you share similar interests with your doctor, have children of similar age or live in the same neighborhood?

The app would allow to establish connections with other patients in the same hospital or ward too. By connecting to the social network of the hospital, the patient could chat and explore other patient’s profiles, find people with shared interests or similar grievances, agree to meet up for a meal or an activity etc.

Social networking within the hospital could help find someone to connect with, and improve one’s psychological well-being during long stays. Screenshot from Medspitality video by Simon Schneebeli.

Social networking within the hospital could help find someone to connect with, and improve one’s psychological well-being during long stays. Screenshot from Medspitality video by Simon Schneebeli.

Staying in control, as well as maintaining your emotional wellbeing in an environment that could otherwise be quite stressful, could help speed up the healing process and make patients feel better about themselves and their surroundings. And all that in a single app!

Personalized navigation in complex hospital halls

The more literal definition of “getting lost” in hospitals is also a great issue – the ever-expanding building complexes are often difficult to navigate, have poor sign system and are not adequately adapted for persons with accessibility issues.

Team “H-compass” have therefore proposed a universal hospital navigation system, which, without depending on Wi-Fi or regular triangulation-based navigation methods, would allow hospital visitors and staff to receive personalized instructions for getting to their destination.

The app created by the team gives visual and audio instructions when pointed to a reference point (a designated sign, symbol or map) in the hospital. An augmented arrow points to the next reference point or your destination, making it impossible to ever get lost again. A personalized map, which includes your exact location and the suggested path, can be accessed in a few touches as well.

Aside from the desired destination, the app would take into account the identity (e.g. staff or patient) and accessibility preferences (e.g. physical disability, visual impairment) of the user, generating the most optimal path from point A to B.

For less tech-savvy users, the model also includes intuitive maps, building overviews, “smart lines” that can be followed in a personalized order, and grid location maps, all of which allow to find your way in a manner most comfortable and accessible to you.

Staying fit in a fun and creative way

Another health-related solution came from the “PIER-X3” team, which dealt with improving a doctor-patient relationship, in a way that makes long-term health interventions more effective.

A platform proposed by the team – MyQoL (My Quality of Life) – would allow to log various lifestyle details of the patient, which could then be used by physicians to motivate healthy behavior in a positive manner. Possible leverage points could be patient’s interests or aspirations. E.g. if one’s is a passionate follower of a daily podcast, why not listen to your favorite program while casually stepping on a treadmill?

The idea is that such positive psychology could help even the most reluctant individuals to take up a more active lifestyle, and stay healthy in the long-run. In the future, patient profiles could be combined with genetic data as well, making it easier to find the most appropriate strategies to encourage the person to stay healthy.

There is no question that the proposed technological solutions would be beneficial to all players in the health field – especially so by reducing the stress levels of patients, caregivers and family of those trying to get well in an otherwise hectic world we live in. After the functioning prototypes have been developed, the next step will be to scale up and adapt these smart techniques for a wider range of hospitals and individuals throughout the world.

Written by Eglė Marija Ramanauskaitė

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