ePAT began working with nViso to develop a medical device in the form of a smartphone app. The app uses the smartphone camera to record a ten-second video of the patient’s face, and analyzes the images using nViso’s sophisticated facial analysis algorithms. If it recognizes any muscle movements that indicate pain, it takes note of them.
Next, the caregiver uses the app to answer questions regarding a total of 42 pain indicators, such as how the patient is moving and how they are vocalizing their pain. Finally, the app calculates an overall pain score for the patient, and syncs the results with a central database in the cloud. This allows caregivers to keep track of patients’ pain scores over time, and monitor whether medication and other pain management strategies are working effectively.
Daffas comments: “From a technical perspective, the project was challenging. Although the solution is delivered like a regular smartphone app, it needs to be engineered to medical device standards in order to pass regulatory scrutiny. We’re aiming to achieve Australian and European approvals later this year, and then start the complex process of gaining FDA approval in the United States.”
Llewellynn adds: “At nViso, we’ve had success in the past using IBM technologies to build solutions for other heavily regulated industries, such as finance. We also know that IBM has a lot of expertise in medical device development. So, we were confident that IBM was the right partner for this project.”
The design of the device needed to embrace “offline first” principles: it must be able to work without a data connection in case a user is temporarily unable to connect to the internet. At the same time, it needs the ability to send data to the cloud when a connection is re-established, so that the patient’s data is stored and protected in the event that the device is lost or broken.
Llewellynn says: “IBM® Cloudant® offers seamless replication capabilities, making it the perfect choice for us—it’s very easy to store data locally on the device and then sync it seamlessly with the central cloud data store when you’re next connected.
“We also liked the fact that Cloudant is a fully managed service, so we don’t need to worry about database management—we can focus on developing our application and leave the underlying infrastructure to the experts from IBM. And finally, unlike a traditional relational database, Cloudant doesn’t have a rigid schema, which makes it much easier to rethink our data structures as the project’s requirements evolve.”
Daffas agrees: “Flexibility is vital for any innovative project, and particularly for one that involves a multi-stage process, with different groups of stakeholders providing input at each stage. We have to be able to listen to the healthcare professionals, the regulators and—where possible—the patients themselves, and adapt our app to their needs. Technologies such as Cloudant can give us the ability to do just that.”