Mohawk College building apps to help you when you're sick

The province pledged $800,000 towards Mohawk's Mobile and Electronic Health Development and Innovation Centre.
Mohawk professor Duane Bender says the apps set to be built could make the medical field move quicker and more efficiently. (Courtesy Mohawk College)

Imagine a world where a nurse has your complete medical history on an iPhone app. It's coming — and Mohawk College is helping to build it.

"We're building a living lab," said Duane Bender, a professor of software engineering technology at Mohawk College.

He's referring to the Mobile and Electronic Health Development and Innovation Centre — or MEDIC for short. The province has announced an $800,000 contribution to the centre.

Hospitals and other medical companies will be using the centre to build both consumer and medical grade mobile apps, with Mohawk students assisting and learning along the way.

Most of the students working there will come from software development programs, and will be given the chance to make programs they normally never would.

"Writing software for medical applications really is its own art," Bender said.

You'd also need medical equipment to test it on. "And we've got everything from iPads to ultrasounds," he said.

All told, the centre will cost about $2 million — $800,000 from the province, $800,000 from the federal government, and $400,000 from the college and industry partners.

Bender says the whole point behind creating apps to be used the medical field is to get the right information about patients to their doctors at the right time.

That isn't a one-way street — some of the apps will let patients describe their symptoms and upload them straight to their doctor.

They'll also be exploring cloud computing — having a patient's information on a mobile server that could be accessed anywhere.

For example, if a person was on vacation and fell ill, a doctor would be able to download his medical history from anywhere.

A centre like this one is rare — Bender says there's probably only one or two like it in Canada. "It's not exactly like a Tim Hortons," he said, laughing.

But for all this new technology, it's not intended to replace anyone in the medical field.

"If anything, it just empowers people to take more control of their own health care."