Florida Atlantic students devote a semester to mobile health

By Neil Versel
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Students in a multidisciplinary Android app development course at Florida Atlantic University spend the spring semester focusing exclusively on creating health and safety apps.

The 80 students, representing the Boca Raton, Fla., school's College of Business, College of Engineering and Computer Science as well as the electronic graphic design program and the anthropology department, produced seven prototype applications:

  • Croyza, a symptom tracker so patients can note all their aches, pains and other health problems as they occur, and then share the record with their physicians;
  • DocQuest, an app that helps people find, read reviews of and make appointments with doctors in their area;
  • ePrescription, a medication reminder system;
  • eScriptPlus, an e-prescribing app for physicians;
  • EvaculateNow!, an app for organizations that assist elderly and handicapped people during mass emergencies such as hurricanes and tornados;
  • Uninsured Solutions, to help uninsured people find coverage or emergency medical support; and
  • Quick Key Campus, an emergency call application that enables students to emergency alerts to campus authorities and first responders from their smartphones.

Health apps have been on the mind of Ravi Shankar, professor of computer and electrical engineering and computer science at FAU, since he started teaching Android app development in 2009 because he has a background in biomedical engineering. But it took until now to devote an entire semester to mobile health, in the form of a course entitled, "Android App Design and Project Management."

"There were issues that took more time than we expected," Shankar tells MobiHealthNews. Getting four departments to collaborate was one roadblock. The maturation of Web service-access technology was another. Plus, the "data liberación" movement, championed by now-White House CTO Todd Park, has made it easier for app developers to get their hands on vast stores of public records," Shankar notes.

"Our goal is to provide dynamic, real-time, useful information in the area of personal healthcare," according to Shankar. By this year, "we thought we had done enough groundwork to start," he adds.

The apps are all considered prototypes, but student teams are being encouraged to market their ideas, Shankar says. Some have established offices at headquarters of the FAU Research Corp., a university-affiliated not-for-profit entity that encourages the commercialization of research conducted on campus.

"I have started a business with a couple members of the team and hope to bring this piece of technology to every campus nationwide, starting first with Florida Atlantic University," Quick Key Campus team member Matthew Hudson, a student in international business major, says in a university press release.

Shankar says that some of the student developers have been working with another professor to create Apple iOs versions of their apps, but his focus is on Android. FAU Android enthusiasts do participate in the global Android open-source community, Shankar notes.