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“Geek of the Week” Justin Chan is using smartphones to democratize medical diagnostics

Allen School Ph.D. student Justin Chan is on a mission to put the power of medical diagnostics into people’s hands, inspired by the ubiquity of smartphones coupled with advancements in artificial intelligence. Working with collaborators in the Networks & Mobile Systems Lab led by professor Shyam Gollakota and in UW Medicine, Chan has developed a mobile system for detecting ear infections in children and a contactless AI system for detecting cardiac arrest using smart devices. He co-founded Edus Health, a University of Washington spin-out that is pursuing clearance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to move his research out of the lab and into people’s hands and homes. His efforts have earned coverage by Scientific American, NPR, MIT Tech Review, and more — and, most recently, a feature as GeekWire’s Geek of the Week.

The motivation for Chan’s research stems from his recognition that while smart devices can combine multiple, sophisticated sensors in a battery-powered device no bigger than a pocket, the medical industry often still relies on expensive — and large — specialized devices for diagnosing patients. “I believe that everyone should be able to own their medical data. To that end, my goal is to make medical diagnostics frugal and accessible enough that anyone with a few spare parts and DIY-know-how would be able to obtain clinical-grade accuracies in the comfort of their homes,” Chan told GeekWire. “While the reality is that many diagnostic tools in healthcare often require expensive tools and specialist expertise, I am hoping we will be able to change that.”

Chan further explored the potential for smartphones and AI to transform health care in a recent article he co-authored with Drs. Sharat Raju of UW Medicine and Eric Topol of Scripps Research that appeared in The Lancet. In that article, the authors highlighted multiple examples of research aimed at using these technologies to diagnose a range of pediatric conditions in a variety of settings.

Read the full GeekWire profile here, and check out The Lancet article here.

Way to go, Justin!