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Tag: Symcat

App-Happy Health Care Full of Optimism, Money


There is a corner of the health care industry where rancor is rare, the chance to banish illness beckons just a few mouse clicks away and talk revolves around venture deals, not voluminous budget deficits.

Welcome to the realm of Internet-enabled health apps. Politicians and profit-seeking entrepreneurs alike enthuse about the benefits of “liberating data” – the catch-phrase of U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park – to enable it to move from government databases to consumer-friendly uses. The potential for better information to promote better care is clear. The question that remains unanswered, however, is what role these consumer applications can play in prompting fundamental health system change.

Michael W. Painter, a physician, attorney and senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is optimistic. “We think that by harnessing this data and getting it into the hands of developers, entrepreneurs, established businesses, consumers and academia, we will unleash tremendous creativity,” Painter said. “The result will be improved and more cost efficient care, more engaged patients and discoveries that can help drive the next generation of care.”

The foundation is backing up that belief with an open checkbook. RWJF recently awarded $100,000 to Symcat, a multi-functional symptom checker for web and mobile platforms. Developed by two Johns Hopkins University medical students, the app determines a possible diagnosis far more precisely than is possible by just typing in symptoms as a list of words to be searched by “Dr. Google.” Symcat also links to quality information on different providers and can even direct users to nearby emergency care and provide an estimate of the cost.

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Lightning Strikes Datapalooza


It didn’t appear on the lightning strike map, but lightning did indeed strike a young medical student inside the Washington Convention Center right in front of about 1,500 amazed spectators on the first day of The Health Data Initiative Forum III: The Health Datapalooza.  Everyone is fine—though our medical student may never be the same again.

Actually, this story began long before Datapalooza, of course.  Fourth-year medical student, Craig Monsen, and his Johns Hopkins Medical School classmate, David Do, started collaborating on software applications soon after they met in first-year anatomy class.  Craig graduated from Harvard with degrees in Engineering and Computer Science and David from University of Minnesota in Bioengineering.

They’re not quite Jobs and Wozniak—neither dropped out of anything—yet—although Craig, at least, is planning to skip or delay residency.  You see, after seeing the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Aligning Forces for Quality Developer Challenge last year—they got very serious about bringing to life their vision of new applications that could help patients and consumers make great health care decisions.

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