When high-school student Ethan Milne submitted a school research project to the call for abstracts for ACEP14, he may not have realized he’d be one of the youngest presenters to give a talk in the history of the annual emergency medicine gathering. Ethan, who started 11th grade at Goderich District Collegiate Institute in Goderich, Ontario, this year, has bent his interest in medicine and technology to develop inventions with the potential to improve patient care in the emergency department. He and his father, emergency physician Ken Milne, MD, who writes the Skeptics Guide to Emergency Medicine blog (www.thesgem.com) and column for ACEP Now, recently spoke with Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, ACEP Now medical editor-in-chief, about Ethan’s research, which will be presented during the 9:30–11:00 a.m. poster session on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, at ACEP14 in Chicago.
KK: Ken, when did you get a sense that Ethan was interested in developing [medical technology], and when did it becomes obvious that it was something that might benefit emergency medicine?
KM: Ethan’s always been interested in science. As I’ve seen him participate in school science fairs, I’ve been repeatedly impressed with the great projects that he comes up with, his ideas, and the experiments he’s performing.
KK: When did his research take a turn toward something that was applicable to emergency medicine?
KM: Last year. Ethan did a science fair [project] on assessing health literacy, and he created a voice-activated app to assess someone’s health literacy in approximately 10 seconds. You know it’s very, very busy in the emergency department. Communication is important, but so is time. If you can assess someone’s health literacy very quickly with an app, you could use that in the emergency department to tailor the information you’re providing the patient.
KK: How does it work at the bedside?
KM: There is a validated tool called the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine, or REALM, short form where you read seven words out loud to the investigator, and if you pronounce a word correctly, you get a point, and if you don’t pronounce a word correctly, you don’t get a point. The points are added up, and it targets your level of health literacy. We would use this as a vital sign down in triage in a nonthreatening way: “Could you please read these seven words? And if you can’t read them, that’s fine. This is just going to help your doctor communicate to you better.” What Ethan came up with is automating it into an app.