Northwestern freshman creates health care app focused on developing countries


Source: Standard Health

Weinberg freshman Mohan Ravi created an app for providing health information through text messages. StandardHealth, which is being developed by Ravi and students from other universities, primarily targets individuals in developing countries.

Olivia Exstrum, Reporter

A Weinberg freshman developed an app that provides health and medical information through SMS text messaging in an effort to create easily accessible health-related data, primarily for individuals in developing countries.

Mohan Ravi and a team of students at several universities across the nation started developing the app, StandardHealth, late last month.

“StandardHealth follows one mission,” Ravi said. “Let’s create the next generation of health care.”

Ravi said the idea behind the app stemmed from the fact that SMS, rather than smartphone-based technology, is used extensively in developing nations such as Kenya and Uganda. He said often in these countries, individuals use text messaging services to charge patients and take out money from the bank for health-related services.

“The idea here was there’s this huge infrastructure, so why don’t we build on it and then add the healthcare component?” he said.

Although the app doesn’t have the ability to give treatment or treatment advice, it is composed of three components: a health information database, a health information logger and electronic health records. The health information database is focused on presenting information through CrowdSourceMed, a program currently being developed which provides crowd sourced medical explanations and definitions in a variety of languages.

“Based on a patient’s query, we may run it through the health database that already has the information about symptoms and diagnoses,” Ravi said. “We’ll be able to pull up possible diagnoses based on certain searches we do, as well as possible preventative treatment options.”

Similarly, with the health information logger, users will be able to store data information about their food intake, exercise and sleep habits. This component allows doctors to identify possible problems in an efficient manner. This information is then stored in a user’s electronic health record, which shortens the time of a doctor visit by making basic health information more readily available.

The app is created under a program called AppHerd, a limited liability company Ravi and his team developed last July. Since its creation, the company has developed multiple products, but none have remained consistently successful, he said. The group is hoping to change that trend with its development of StandardHealth. Currently, the team is applying to different seed accelerators, programs that mentor certain startup companies. Ravi said by the end of the week, the team will have applied to at least 12 different accelerators.

There are typically three stages within the app development process that companies go through when creating a product such as StandardHealth, Ravi said. These include the idea stage, product validation stage and marketing stage. He said currently, the app is in the development and product validation stage.

“We’re certainly not at the end,” Ravi said. “But we’re certainly not at the beginning.”

Divyagnan Kandala, another member of the team and a freshman at the University of North Florida, said he and Ravi developed the idea for the app after seeing a video about technology in developing nations.

“When Mohan showed me the video, I thought there could be so many applications for technology and medicine using the infrastructure that already exists,” Kandala said.

The team is also working on creating partnerships with doctors and hospitals in Iran and the Dominican Republic, as well as deans at different U.S. universities. The app is focused primarily on international medicine, mainly because of possible liability issues it could present within the U.S.

Although he initially thought a project involving students at several colleges might prove difficult, Ravi said remaining organized among the other team members has been surprisingly easy. The team members, who attend NU, University of North Florida, University of California, Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University use different sharing programs like Trello and GroupMe to communicate easily and keep track of what goals remain to be accomplished.

Ravi added there is no set agenda in what the team does when developing the app, noting all team members are free to contribute to the idea as much as they want.

“If someone can do something better, they should go ahead,” he said. “The idea is everybody gets to decide whatever they want, and that’s how we’ve gotten this far.”

Ravi said he is unsure of what his plans are going forward, but he will always consider himself an entrepreneur.

“I want to take ideas like this and disrupt the medical system so we can change medicine for the better,” he said. “An individual, through policy, might not be able to do the same thing as an individual who takes ideas and incentivizes them towards social good.”

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