Worcester Polytechnic nabs $4M for chronic disease treatment

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recently snagged $4 million in National Science Foundation funding to create the Healthcare Delivery Institute to develop mobile apps and software for chronic diseases associated with aging, according to a story at iMedicalApps. The idea is to bring together top faculty and students in engineering, science, and business, as well as partnering with industry members, providers and vendors, to create new healthcare products.

The WPI project is one of a growing number of academic/industry partnerships chasing potentially commercial apps in healthcare. Duke University and Verizon teamed up last fall for just this purpose--creating new apps, developing the wireless infrastructure to support them, and providing student developers with business tools to market their final products.

The institute's first big project--$1.2 million--got started late last year. WPI committed to a four-year program to create a new diabetes management app called "Sugar." The app, created in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Medical School, integrates wirelessly with a patient's personal glucose meter and a scale, tracking the patient's weight and sugar levels. When the program senses something out of balance, it sends the patient messages to get back on track.

What takes the app to the next level, however, is its focus on foot ulcers as well as general diabetes management. Patients use their smartphone cameras to photograph ulcers, and the app provides tools to monitor size, status and other indicators of the wound's condition, iMedicalApps reports. Without careful monitoring, diabetic foot ulcers are a common cause of infection, mobility problems and even amputation.

"The application will provide relevant, personalized feedback for the patient that encourages them to make good decisions." Bengisu Tulu, assistant professor at WPI's School of Business, told Healthcare IT News late last year. "The reality is that nearly all the management of a person's diabetes is done by the patient, away from a doctor's office or clinic. So we envision this new application as a way to help these patients achieve better outcomes."

To learn more:
- dig into iMedicalAppsreport    
- read the Worcester Business Journal's article
- check out Healthcare IT Newscoverage