A team of student and faculty researchers at MIT have developed an open source software system with the goal of improving health care access to patients in remote regions.

The software is called SANA, and runs on the Android platform.  The app allows health care workers in remote clinics to send pictures and videos to a database where they can be reviewed by a physician who is then able to provide a preliminary diagnosis via texting.

SANA is different than other collaborative electronic medical sharing efforts because it allows complex medical imaging, such as x-rays and ultrasound images to be uploaded and analyzed.

Since SANA is open source, it can be customized to a specific regions needs and tailored to specific pathologies that need to be studied. Program developers hope this gives health care workers a shared sense of responsibility and promotes a level of sustainability.

SANA’s first success involved using health care workers in Bangalore to screen patients for oral cancer:

The project involved taking photos of the mouths of 400 high-risk patients who were selected from 4,000 people identified during an initial screening, and using the application to send those images to an oncologist at the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital to look for lesions. As a result, the workers successfully referred two patients for treatment of precancerous lesions; it was Sana’s first direct success.

Two key issues currently being addressed by SANA’s developers are improved data encryption technology in order to protect patient privacy, and the high cost of Android phones. The Android platform’s open source nature lends itself to this software project, and allows SANA to stand out due to the complex medical imagining it can handle – the drawback are the high costs of the phones. As we discussed in a recept post Android prices are dropping – only increasing SANA’s potential for growth and development.

Source: MIT news