2016 Mobile App Challenge winners will focus on pediatrics education and Milwaukee teen health

Abdominal complaints are among the most common symptoms encountered by medical students and physicians training in a pediatric clinical setting. Shortly, one of the winning teams of MCW’s 2016 Mobile App Challenge will help develop an app to enhance clinical learning and expedite diagnosis of abdominal complaints. A second winning pediatric education app aims to run simulations of clinical cases, while the third winning team expects its app to help reduce teen pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections among Milwaukee teenagers.

MCW’s Mobile App Challenge, now in its third year, was launched in 2013 in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) to encourage innovative uses of mobile technology in education, clinical care, research and community engagement. Proposals were submitted by MCW faculty, staff and students in February and March. Development with the UWM Mobile Innovation Lab, also known as the App Brewery, will begin shortly on the three winning app proposals.

“Students and physicians-in-training are inundated with a variety of pediatric patients with abdominal complaints,” says Sarah Walker, MD, surgical pediatric critical care fellow. “They need a concise, portable manner in which to gather information, review the workup, and diagnose abdominal complaints.”

Users of the proposed Pediatric Abdominal Complaint App will enter age, gender and initial symptoms of a pediatric patient. The app then runs calculations using step-by-step algorithms developed by a pediatric specialist team with surgical, gastroenterology and hospitalist experience. By making choices of associated symptoms and lab and radiographic test results, users will be presented with likely potential diagnoses and suggestions for consultations. In addition to Dr. Walker, the team for this app proposal includes Marjorie Arca, MD, professor of surgery (pediatric surgery), and three collaborators from the University of Louisville: Mary Fallat, MD, John Stutts, MD, MPH, and Pradip Patel, MD.

“Medical simulation offers providers the opportunity to care for a variety of patients, including those requiring aggressive resuscitation,” says Ryan Scheper, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics (emergency medicine). “Simulation is particularly important in pediatrics, as children present less frequently with immediate resuscitative needs.”

Currently available medical simulation apps focus on adult patients and do not accurately recreate pediatric cases. The proposed SimPLe app (Simulation for Pediatrics Learning) will be a learning tool for providers to gain essential pediatric experiences. The app will display customizable vital signs, which the simulation’s director will control as the case progresses to fit with the clinical scenario being studied. Dr. Scheper was assisted in the development of the project by three colleagues in the department of pediatrics, division of emergency medicine: Danny Thomas, MD, MPH, assistant professor; Michael Levas, MD, MS, assistant professor; and David Brousseau, MD, MS, professor and division chief.

“The MKE Teen Health app project was initiated by four high school students who identified teen pregnancy and STI rates as issues of genuine concern in their community,” comments Jessica Olson, PhD, postdoctoral fellow and co-director of MCW academic outreach program DRIVE (in which the students are participants).

“Through focus groups with teens, we identified digital strategies to improve teen interactions with preventive resources,” adds Anna Williams, doctoral candidate in physiology.

The proposed app will provide users with access to a map of regional reproductive healthcare facilities and resources. The app team plans to provide an anonymous portal where teens can submit questions to health professionals specializing in teen reproductive health services. The goal is to deliver valid health information in a format that is engaging, accessible and easy to understand. Williams and Dr. Olson are working with Denise Crumble from the City of Milwaukee Health Department and high school students, Reiauna Taylor, Melissa Ryan, Brianna Robinson and Breeonna James.

In addition, information about prior winners of the Mobile App Challenge can be found online, including a number of videos that demonstrate the features of apps available for download.