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Alberta team produces ‘best evidence’ app

Rahul Mehta

CALGARY – Late last year, a start-up company called SnapDx won both the “Audience Choice Award” and overall first place at the W21C Innovation Academy at the University of Calgary.

Founded by software engineer Hisham Al-Shurafa and two University of Calgary resident-physicians, Dr. Rahul Mehta (Internal Medicine) and Dr. Aravind Ganesh (Neurology), SnapDx (www.snapdx.co) provides interactive, visual mobile applications that help patients and practitioners to quickly access medical knowledge without having to scroll through lots of text.

It generates visualizations that are personalized to the patient’s medical history, so that doctors and patients can make informed decisions right at the appointment, based on the highest-quality evidence and best practices.

The entrepreneurial company beat 13 other healthcare start-ups to win the top prize of $10,000. It also earned a spot to represent Canada at the Global Innovation Academy in Switzerland this year.

The W21C Innovation Academy is a business pitch competition in partnership with Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the University of Pretoria, and the University of Geneva, where start-ups with the potential to stimulate significant change in healthcare and health systems delivery are showcased. The winners of each Innovation Academy from different countries are sent to compete at the Global Innovation Academy.

Launched in July 2013, SnapDx is a way for physicians and patients to “understand each other in a better way,” said co-founder Dr. Rahul Mehta (pictured).

“We’re developing tools that can be used at the point-of-care that allows physicians to have access to the latest data and guidelines, but also so they can provide those guidelines in simple terms to the patients.”

The app is designed to synthesize both patient data and best practices, giving physicians a better way to diagnose and treat patients.

The technology allows doctors to rely on more than just their memories, and helps solve the problem of both physician and patient information overload, Mehta said. “These days, there’s so much medical research and data out there, it’s difficult for physicians to keep up to date with it,” he said.

While regularly seeing patients as a medicine resident at the University of Calgary, the 27-year-old couldn’t stop thinking of ways to improve the existing health-care system using technology. Mehta was inspired by New York Times infographics that explain complex topics in a simple and visually pleasing manner.

“Why don’t we take those infographics and data visualization techniques and apply them to healthcare?” he asked.

Mehta connected with Hisham Al-Shurafa, a software engineer and co-founder of Startup Calgary, and Dr. Aravind Ganesh, a neurology resident and researcher at the University of Calgary.

The team formed SnapDx in July, and the group is working with Maria Bacchus, an associate professor of medicine and the deputy regional clinical department head and vice chair of strategic planning at the University of Calgary, and Dr. Aleem Bharwani, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Calgary and director of the medical teaching unit at Foothills Medical Centre.

The company’s app prototypes have been created and are currently being tested. The first product, an app for medical residents, is scheduled to be released in January.

 

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