Access to healthcare is one of the biggest problems facing our global society today. Many people talk about the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. Although we beleive this is an important issue, we think an even more pertinent issue is the "health gap". That is, the access to quality healthcare. What better way to give the impoverished better healthcare then to give them the same healthcare of the rich.
What it does
Our project is unique in that is has two interfaces, one for doctors, and one for the patients in third world countries. The part the doctors access is an iOS application. This iOS application contains a messaging interface in which doctors can view inquiries from a variety of patients, respond to them, and converse with patients.
The second interface is a SMS-based interface for the people in third world countries. This interface allows users to communicate important information to their doctors, in their native language. First, we take their input, detect their language, run it through a translation engine, and give the output to the doctor. When the doctor replies in English, the input is run through a translation engine and appears in the sms users inbox, in their native tongue. All this happens seamlessly allowing for smooth frictionless between doctors and patients.
How We built it
Our PennApps project was built by first dividing our team members and time into two groups, back-end and front-end. The backend team worked to build REST APIs to query Twilio, make users aware of new messages, login, and register new users. The front-end team worked to make a seamless user experience for the doctors, building an interactive, beautiful user interface to make doctors want to help. The back-end utilizes Linode as a base environment.
Challenges We ran into
Being a team comprising of 3 High School students and 1 College student, our team was pretty imbalanced in the beginning, but we got the ground running. Throughout our project we ran into many challenges. The first, and greatest of these was asynchronous development. The iOS team could only work when the back-end team finished an API function and the back-end team could only work when we knew what we were getting from the iOS team. This led to a lot of waiting and inefficiency. As the second night wore on, our planning got better and we were able to complete our project much faster than we would have been able to otherwise.
Another issue we had was "speaking" different languages. Our two iOS developers, Ryan and Darpan turned out to know two different things. Darpan was a swift developer, where as Ryan was an objective-c developer. They both improved at each others languages and were able to build a great application.
We started using the Swift 2.0, but there were many changes made in the Xcode 7.6 beta version with regards to syntax, and so we ran into many problems. Towards the afternoon of the 2nd day, we decided to switch back to old-school objective-C.
A similar issue occurred with our back-end team. The back-end team had decided to make their application in flask. There was just one problem: one of our backend developers, Alex had never used flask before. Over the course of the two nights he learned and became extremely proficient in flask and was able to build a great application.
Accomplishments that We are proud of
We're proud of what we accomplished at Pennapps. Our project was very ambitious and we ran into a lot of errors. Setting up a server, scaling our infrastructure for bigger demos, and finishing something were among our greatest accomplishments. With a team with such diverse background we gained new perspective from each others knowledge and learned a lot.
What We learned
We learned a ton this year at PennApps. One of the most useful things we learned was the importance of pushing something. Admittedly, certain parts of our user interface was lacking a great design element. Others still used terrible, terrible coding convention that would get even the newest developers scolded. At the end of the day (or, in this case 2 days) it didn't matter. We pushed a product that worked, and embodied our vision of being able to help those in need.
What's next for MedComm
Regardless of the outcome of PennApps MedComm will be pursued. One of our team members has begun conversations with a few doctors to survey the interest among doctors and it is very high. Over the next coming weeks we plan to rewrite, and improve the application. We are also sending out emails to several organizations; including internet.org, about a partnership. We have also spoken to someone from shot@life about distributing common access to a local number when they send vaccinations. We are all very excited about this opportunity We think this application has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives and improve millions.