How can a mobile app improve access to care for rural, remote and Indigenous communities?

October 16, 2019 Joule Inc.

According to the World Health Organization, access to timely, acceptable and affordable health care is a fundamental human right. But across our vast country, it's not so simple.

 

On this episode of Boldly, Tamara Mason speaks with dermatology resident and Joule Innovation grant recipient Dr. Sheila Wang. Dr. Wang is also the Chief Medical Officer at Swift Medical, a company that’s transforming wound care through a clinically validated smartphone app, the Swift Skin and Wound app. They are currently piloting the app in Cree communities in the northern Quebec region of James Bay.

Dr. Wang shares her journey becoming a physician innovator and how she came up with the idea for Swift Medical while working in wound clinics.

Listen now to learn about how Swift Medical improving access to care today and how she hopes it will impact health care moving forward.

tweetable: “What I wanted to do was to build solutions.”

Key takeaways

How did Swift Medical get started?

  • During her first year of medical school working in wound clinics, Dr. Wang realized that the only objective measurement of a wound and how it was changing was the size.
  • Doctors were taking maximum length and maximum width, but because a wound is often not a perfect circle, this assessment changed from person to person.
  • Dr. Wang recognized that there should be a standardized wound care assessment tool.

tweetable: “If you can't track how a wound is changing over time, if you don't know whether it's actually healing or getting worse, then often you're going to miss the signs.”

How does Swift Medical disrupt what is happening in health care today?

  • The current practice is to use a paper ruler to measure maximum length and width.
  • This practice is inaccurate because sometimes they multiply length and width, which overestimates by width and length.
  • The depth is measured with a cotton tip applicator.
  • Photography of wounds is not currently best practice meaning they have to rely on memory, which can lead to errors.

tweetable: “There's a disconnect between the patient and how their wound is healing or getting worse over time.”

What is the difference with Swift Medical?

  • In brief, more streamlined wound care.
  • The app allows doctors to take accurate and consistent measurements at point of care.
  • This also allows all members of the care team to access these measurements.
  • You can aggregate data in real time.
  • And, you can examine wound healing trajectories across your entire patient population.

tweetable: “It's a very exciting opportunity to be able to initiate a change within healthcare”

How could Swift Medical support remote communities?

  • They’re hoping to provide tele wound care to 63% of Quebec―this covers about 1.8 million people.
  • Diabetes is 17% more prevalent in rural areas (compared to urban settings), but there are half as many physicians available.
  • Front line workers, often nurses, can use the app to liaise with wound care experts.

tweetable: “There needs to be more research, there needs to be more understanding of wounds, and there needs to be more patient input, more policymaker input into wounds, and as well as physician input into wound care.”

How does Swift Medical support physicians and their patients?

  • Having a centralized format means that the wound care specialist can see more wound assessments at any one time.
  • Having a more complete digital wound assessment means less frustration due to missing information.
  • It also means faster follow up and fewer patients lost to follow up.
  • Tele medicine solution means clinicians don’t need to travel to remote sites as frequently.

tweetable: “I think that medicine and research and innovation and entrepreneurship, it's about learning.”

 What is advice you would offer to someone in a similar position?

  • She believes medicine, research, innovation and entrepreneurship are all about learning and growth.
  • It’s also about teamwork.

tweetable: “This recommendation also comes with a responsibility to inspire the healthcare community to support a high quality, sustainable, and equitable health care system for all Canadians.”

 

Recommended Resources

If digital health care were a patient, it would need a shot in the arm, an article by the Globe and Mail

Dr. Sheila Wang young leaders award interview by CMA

Quebec Cree deal with travel, isolation just to see a medical specialist, an article by CBC

New Cree medical app teaches doctors and patients medical terms to communicate, an article by CBC

'Imagine living every day with a raw, gaping hole in your body': Chronic wounds are the massive global health problem no one's talking about, doctor warns, an article by Business Insider

New phone app can greatly reduce incidence of bed sores: study, an article by the Montreal Gazette

Measuring wounds: doctors use their phones to be more accurate, an article by CTV News Montreal

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Loved this podcast? Read, watch or listen more content about Joule’s 2019 grant recipients:

When worlds collide: unique perspective leads to portable GPS for surgeons, an article featuring Dr. Bill Wang from iMIRGE Medical

A win-win-win: How a novel integrated approach is disrupting dementia care, an article featuring Dr. Linda Lee from MINT Memory Clinics (or watch the video about her initiative here)

This common diagnostic tool got a 21st century makeover, an article featuring Dr. Devon Livingstone from ENTiD

From prototype to puzzle piece, a podcast featuring Gabriel Georges from Puzzle Medical

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Are you making waves in innovation or have a bold idea to share? We would love to hear your story. Connect with us at jouleinquiries@cma.ca to have your thoughts featured in a future podcast.

The opinions stated by podcast participants are made in a personal capacity and do not reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries, including Joule. Joule does not endorse any views, product, service, association, company or industry mentioned in this podcast.

About the author

Joule Inc.

Joule, a CMA subsidiary, is at the hub of Canada’s health care innovation eco-system. Having brokered key relationships amongst system players, we are able to identify, curate and create digital solutions. We empower the adoption of digital innovations that have the potential to improve access to health care for all Canadians.

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