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Julia Guthrie
October 23, 2015

Apps for Health: Helping Diagnose TB Patients in Venezuela


SergioPoliFrom left to right: Dr. Sergio Poli, a patient, and a child from one of the indigenous communities

For as long as he can remember, Sergio Poli, a doctor and researcher in Caracas, Venezuela, was using paper forms to interview his patients about their health histories.

Sergio is helping to diagnose and eliminate cases of Tuberculosis, which-- though not a dire threat here in the United States-- continues to be a leading cause of death in developing countries.

Sergio is using a cutting-edge device called the E-Nose to potentially diagnose TB. The E-Nose is able to identify patterns in human breath that detect, in 15 minutes or less, the presence (or lack thereof) of TB in a patient. Sergio is conducting extensive research in Caracas and in indigenous Amerindian communities to prove the use of this device is indeed effective in TB diagnosis. The process requires careful data capture along with the administration of the E-Nose. Because the health history interview consists of 300+ questions, and because his work is often conducted in difficult conditions, Sergio was looking for a way to automate the process and replace the paper forms.

He used AppSheet to convert his form into a mobile app he and his research partners are now using to capture important information from patients who may have TB. He uses the data collected in the app and compares it against the data produced from the E-Nose. He is hoping to be able to use this data to soon prove that the E-Nose is an effective tool for diagnosis.

Of course, manual collection of this amount of sensitive information would be almost impossible via handwriting. Not to mention the painstaking work of transcribing it into a database later on-- a process prone to human error.

"Before AppSheet we were doing histories on paper. It was a lot of work, and we had to find time to transcribe the piles of paper. When you're doing clinical research, transcribing data is painful," he says.

Sergio says the app he built with AppSheet is saving his team at least three times of the work they were doing before. And it's giving him the ability to glean valuable information from the data.

He says, "AppSheet simplifies everything. It allows me to go inside Google Sheets and produce graphs and charts from our data in minutes or less. That would take me three or four days if I were using paper."



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