Students developing app for better health literacy

Taking prescription medicine is not always easy. It can be especially troublesome for those who don’t speak English.

Maria Alexandra Ortiz, a junior software engineering student at ECU, has seen it with her Spanish-speaking parents.“ My father was taking a prescription that interfered with his blood pressure,” Ortiz said. “My mom didn’t know and my father didn’t know until I came and checked, and it was actually the prescription that was raising his blood pressure with his other medication.”

Her solution is RxTranslate, a mobile application Ortiz and ECU senior computer science and Honors College student Tiffany Nguyen presented during the HackNC 2019 hackathon last fall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. RxTranslate won three prizes at the event — best health hack, best hack empowering minorities and second place overall.

The app takes a picture of a prescription bottle or label. It extracts the text from the image and then translates it into the specified language. It then identifies the drug and gathers information from the web about specific drug interactions or substances that can be harmful if taken with that prescription.

Nguyen and Ortiz competed against 96 other projects from students throughout the country at the event.

“We weren’t expecting anything out of it,” Ortiz said. “We saw so many amazing things and amazing innovations, so we weren’t expecting anything, but we did a good job. It was pretty cool. It was an amazing experience.”

Nguyen and Ortiz see their app going further, such as allowing users to input personal medical information such as allergies to guarantee better results.

“We would like to make an actual mobile application and integrate things like machine learning models that better categorize text and better translate text,” said Nguyen, who is an EC Scholar.