By the end of March, Niño Jesus Hospital of Madrid presented its first mobile app. ‘Convulsiones’ (Convulsions), an app for iOS and Android, which indicates how to act if someone around us suffers an epileptic seizure.
The initiative of launching this app is a break new ground for a public hospital in Spain, and to find out more about the motivations that drove the team to conceive and develop the idea, we have interviewed Dr. Maria Luz Ruiz-Falcó, behind the project along with Verónica Cantarín.
**About ‘Convulsiones’, how did you come up with the idea to create the app? And how do you think it can improve the life of patients suffering from epilepsy, and their families?***
In our daily professional activity we are constantly explaining our seizure patient’s parents how to act if their kids suffer a seizure outside the hospital. There are explanatory brochures to go through the information. But we wanted to reach further, reach teachers, friends, and any person who could be involved in a situation where they must help someone having seizure in the street.
For this reason we thought that nowadays we can reach more people with the use of the available new tools. That is how we came up with the idea, to try to teach what a seizure is to those who weren’t familiar with it.
Between 5% and 10% of us are going to have a crisis at some point in our lives. There is a pretty high probability that the person beside us on a plane or in a supermarket suffers one. We know what we have to do and that we will do it correctly. We also think that the information about convulsions and epilepsy will help to prevent the stigmatization. From a 5% to a 10% of the people have seizures crisis, how many do you identify? This is something that today is still concealed. We think the reason to be hidden is fear: fear to stigmatization, or personal, social and work –related fears…
In a future, are you planning to develop similar apps that will affect other health sectors or pathologies?
This first app was difficult to develop due to lack of awareness and ignorance; this is not our world, but we believe it’s a practical way to transmit specific information. I think there are many possibilities and once we have accomplished the first app, the rest will come more easily.
Regarding the general public and users, how was the app´s acceptance? What kind of response are you having?
The app has had a great acceptance. Different associations and the media have spread its existence and we believe that we have reached a high degree of satisfaction.
** Regarding hospitals, doctors and patients, it seems mobile phones are increasingly more involved on daily basis. So far, how do you assess its impact on the medical field? And what kind of future do you expect these technologies to have? **
Mobile phones are gradually more involved in every aspect of our lives, in the hospital world the possibility of receiving knowledge and information is extremely useful, especially when it all comes immediately. For people like us that have lived other times, it amazes us to have all the information in such way. It is important that the information is correct otherwise there can be an enormous damage. We have the idea that everything published is accurate, but that can lead to great mistakes.
In some countries health apps are starting to be regulated by the authorities. Take Spain for example, if I am not mistaken, it has not happen yet. Is the app regulation necessary to promote its expansion and normalize its use?
It’s like all the information we can obtain nowadays. In my opinion we should educate people to difference sources of information. Our app is supported by the Neurology Department of the Niño Jesus Hospital of Madrid – a public hospital-, and the Spanish Pediatric Neurology Society – a prestigious scientific society-. However, regarding health I think the regularization of the apps would be necessary.
** It is said how apps and mobile phones ease the patients lives, but, how does it affect doctors and hospitals? In which way can it contribute, which was not possible until now? **
I believe that in a short time mobile phones will carry our medical records, x-rays, blood tests results, etc. We will carry around the code to obtain drugs in drugstores. This is already happening for other activities such as traveling by train or going to the movies.
We don´t have access to our medical records on our mobile phones just because we don’t want to, probably because we have spent money in a computer program that now we have to pay off and it cannot be replaced. Technology progresses rapidly, and as doctors, we are completely aware of some of the great benefits of it. But by the time my Autonomous Community establishes electronic medical records for everyone and repays the investments made, electronic medical records won’t be necessary as it will be on our fingerprints.