Innovate for Impact with Communic-AID

UNICEF and ARM, in collaboration with global product strategy and design firm ‘frog’, have introduced the “Wearables for Good” design challenge. The focus of this initiative is the creation of innovative medical devices targeted towards maternal and child health in emerging economies. Out of a pool of 2000 applicants, or 250 teams, the top ten finalists include a group of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory’s very own students: William Higgins, Katie Fiedler, Heather Issen, Madison Lewis, and Isabelle Vernon, presenting the world with Communic-AID.

Communic-AID is a system used to keep track of medical records in a post-disaster context. Through the use of near-field communication technology, medical data is stored in a simple bracelet that will be distributed to each patient that visits a hospital for any form of treatment. This device targets regions affected by natural disasters, where the lack of necessities is acutely felt in hospitals and clinics.

With a flood of patients, hospitals have to be more efficient than ever; physicians have resorted to archaic methods of organization by marking a patient’s chest in permanent marker with the treatment he or she will be receiving, for example.

As shown, in many post-disaster communities, highly organized and efficient medical record keeping is virtually non-existent, which is where Communic-AID steps in.

This system takes the need for that large, organized infrastructure and consolidates it within a simple band around the wrist. Now, when patients enter a healthcare facility and are initially diagnosed, they are given an empty bracelet. With every visit, the medicines administered, important medical history, effects of the current treatment plan, and any other essential information are all stored on the wristband. On a subsequent visit, the doctor can then easily access this pertinent medical information and determine the most effective treatment plan from there. The information on the band is edited with each visit, drastically reducing any confusion about a patient’s health and ensuring that the patient receives the most effective care.

At the same time, physicians would need a Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled device specifically dedicated to accessing and tracking the medical records stored on the chip. While personal smartphones are a convenient possibility, the risk factors associated with losing the smartphone – such as a loss of confidentiality – suggest the need for a device specifically dedicated for record-keeping purposes, which the Communic-Aid team is currently looking into.

In designing the device, thorough research was conducted by the team to determine if its product was addressing an actual pain point in patient care.

Team members observed the aid work conditions in Haiti and Nepal as well as the management of victim care, in addition to interviewing an aid worker in South Sudan and a Georgia Tech BME Alum in Nigeria, Anu Parvatiyar, on the current healthcare infrastructure in impoverished areas in these nations.

The Communic-Aid team is set to find out in November whether it will be one of the two winning teams to be awarded $15,000 and a startup package with frog. At the moment, Communic-AID is a minimally viable product, and the team plans to use $8000 of potential funding to develop a functioning prototype. The manufacturing cost of the actual bracelet is around $2, with the 2 KB NFC chip costing 75 cents, so the majority of the allocated prototyping funds is for the development of an app to be used by the medical professionals. This system would initially be tested in IDP camps, as the low infrastructure environment resembles post-disaster recovering communities, and highlight the major areas of improvement Communic-AID will require. Ideally, in two to three years, the team sees Communic-AID in the first responders kit for areas affected by natural disasters.

Even if they do not receive this funding, according to Higgins, the team plans to reach out to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pair with the foundation’s global health project subsection as well as other organizations with similar goals. Higgins hopes to incorporate Communic-AID by the end of this year.

While the team still has a quite a journey ahead of them, they are very excited about the potential implications Communic-AID could have in the increased efficiency and accuracy of patient treatment around the world, and we look forward to hearing more about their endeavours in the future!