Queen's students work to reduce hospital wait times

Posted on February 26, 2016

ECE ELEC 490 team develops system to quickly match patients with doctors

Agele Team
WINNING ENTRY: Jordy Jacob, Daniel Nadeau, Thomas Davies and Anthony Nguyen designed and built Aegle. First-year general engineering students and second-year ECE students voted it best project in the ECE ELEC490 fourth-year design project competition.

Update April 15 , 2016: Aegle finished in second place in the IEEE Student Paper Competition on March 30. 

Update March 30, 2016: Jacob, Nadeau,  Davies and  Nguyen earned first place in the Queen's IEEE paper competition and so are moving along to the eastern finals on March 30. The project had an external industry advisor: Dr Mohsen Omrani, MD, PhD. Acting head professor Dr Shahram Yousefi, PhD, P.Eng., SM' IEEE happened to be faculty advisor.
February 26, 2016:

A group of Queen’s engineering students has developed a software and hardware suite that could help emergency room (ER) doctors more quickly and easily connect with patients thereby reducing wait times, maximizing efficiencies and potentially saving lives.

Nationally, more than 27 percent of ER patients report waiting more than four hours just to see a physician. Though improving, numbers like this are embarrassing in contrast with those of some other Western countries like the Netherlands and the UK. There is a complex array of contributing problems in this scenario, so electrical and computer engineering (ECE) students Jordy Jacob, Daniel Nadeau, Thomas Davies and Anthony Nguyen built Aegle as their ELEC490 fourth-year design project. It’s a proof-of-concept suite of software and accompanying hardware that organizes ER patients according to need and matches them with available medical professionals.

“A patient will walk into triage and be greeted by a nurse who will enter all the needed information: first name, last name, gender, major diagnostic category, minor symptoms,” says Nguyen. “The nurse assesses the patient’s priority and submits the information to our algorithm. The algorithm then picks the doctor who it thinks will allow for the shortest wait time for the patient.”

The four started work on the project last summer and spent many late nights bringing it to fruition.

“We used Node, which is a JavaScript framework,” says Jacob. “It gave us some issues because it’s asynchronous; things would happen later in the code that weren’t supposed to happen until something else had run. It gave us a bunch of different errors all over the place that took us quite a bit of time to fix.”

“There was a lot of back-and-forth,” says Davies. “The REST API has specific end points you can query to get data back. When we initially identified the problem we didn’t know the scope of what we were going to have as a front end. Jordy and I would build stuff and Anthony would be like, ‘Oh, we need this and this. Can we add this, can we add that.’ Then he would be able to move forward.”


PAGING DR ZOIDBERG: Aegle can be easily configurable via its REST API for use on virtually any phone, tablet or smartwatch.

That REST API allows various consumer smartphones and smartwatches to be easily configurable for Aegle. Doctors and nurses can access the system from their mobile devices and make decisions about whether to see patients or pass them on to colleagues. But the Aegle team also developed their own smartwatch prototype, one that could be mounted in a hospital-friendly case, produced inexpensively and distributed specially to medical staff. It runs the Arduino software platform on an 8-bit ATmega328P microprocessor, the same chip used in the Arduino Uno. Nadeau estimates Aegle watches could be produced for $15-$20 each.

“Just like the web interface, you can use our watch to enter the cue, click on a patient and look at their page,” he says. “It’s not really professional for doctors to carry their personal phones with them. Not only that, it’s not really sanitary. This allows it to be completely separate from a doctor’s personal device. It’s also way cheaper for a hospital than buying a multitude of phones for staff to use.”


SAVING TIME: The Aegle smartwatch includes a buzzer and notification light to alert doctors when there are new patients in the cue.
Jacob, Nadeau, Davies and Nguyen toyed with the idea of pressing on with the project with an eye to taking it to market but they each have career plans already lined-up that will take them in different directions. After graduation, Jacob and Nadeu are off to Seattle for respective jobs with Amazon and Microsoft. Davies has a job lined up working on IOT (internet of things) with Autodesk and Nguyen will be staying at Queen’s a little longer to finish up his dual degree in economics before moving to industry in software development.

Still, their work on Aegle is an exercise in applying the engineering theory and skill they’ve amassed over the last four years to solve real-world problems.

“Technology changes all the time and stuff you might learn in school will be old in a year, so it’s more about using your foundational knowledge to pick up things like Node and what Daniel’s doing really quickly on your own,” says Nguyen. “It’s about connecting the dots and being able to build something like this.”