A group of current and former college students designed an application that may make it easier to find the nearest hospital available for immediate care.
The group, composed of current Rutgers students Viral Jogani and Dean Rexines, both School of Engineering students, as well as Rutgers alumnus Jay Ravaliya and current University of Michigan student Haitham Maaieh, designed an iPhone application to tackle a common issue with emergency care.
The application, “Find My Health,” was created at a hackathon called PennApps, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania. A hackathon is an event where teams spend a weekend creating solutions to real-world problems using software or hardware, according to the PennApps website.
The PennApps hackathon, held in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, hosted a variety of people from around the world. Two thousand hackers were selected to attend, representing 127 universities and colleges and 11 countries, as well as employers like Google, Facebook, and Uber, Ravaliya said.
The application, which won the "Best Social Innovation" prize, is designed to notify people in non-life threatening emergencies how long it would take to see a healthcare personnel, Ravaliya said.
“The question should not be ‘How long will it take to get to the hospital?’” he said. “The question should not solely be how long the wait time is, but ‘From where you are, how long will it take to see a doctor? What’s the most optimal hospital you could get to?’”
One of the main functions of the application is to search for the nearest hospital based on criteria such as waiting time inside the hospital, travel time to the hospital including traffic, and user reviews, Jogani said.
The other function is to directly contact emergency services through 911, as well as notifying three primary contacts of your location via text message, he said.
The idea for such an application came from a trip to Florida, where some hospitals had billboards telling potential patients to text a number in order to determine the wait time for the hospital, Ravaliya said.
Seeing these billboards inspired him to find data sets with the relevant information, and later propose the concept to the team, he said.
“PennApps is usually a big supporter of health hacks," Jogani said. "They’re interested in people who make an app or make some hardware related hack that has to do with health. They’re really big on that, so it further encouraged us to pursue this idea.”
Prior to the hackathon, the group had no physical interaction with one another. Despite being in the same class and major, Rexines and Jogani never met, and neither of them had met Ravaliya nor Maaieh, Jogani said.
Despite this, the group was able to come together and produce an application that they hope will soon be available to the public, Rexines said.
“We didn’t fully know each other initially," he said. "We just had an idea, we had similar skills and just one weekend to come up with something. We were happy with how it came out, and we are planning on moving forward with it.”
Over time, the group hopes the application allows people to find quick treatment and allow hospitals avoid being overcrowded. They also hope to add a feature allowing users to note how long they waited at a hospital in order to build a more accurate data set, Rexines said.
Hackathons, designed to bring the hacker community together, are things that should be accepted and promoted by Rutgers, Jogani said. Bringing together enthusiastic students who have personal projects and try to apply their knowledge for a practical purpose is an important experience.
“It would be great if Rutgers could follow the same interests as these companies and try to promote events like hackathons,” Jogani said. “Hopefully we can find entrepreneurs in the future who can say ‘Because of Rutgers, I was able to make a bigger difference in the world.’”
These events allow people from all backgrounds to come together and use their knowledge in a meaningful way, regardless of their level of experience, Rexines said.
Even newcomers to the field can get involved in hackathons, since the community is welcoming to those who take interest in it, Ravaliya said.
“No matter what you’re a part of, you can benefit from going to a hackathon,” he said. “My advice to anyone interested in technology that uses an iPhone or Android device is this: Go out to a hackathon and see what it’s all about. You might learn something new.”