Helping to Cure Cancer with an iPhone App


I recently met Gangadhar Sulkunte. Among other things he is an IT Project Manager, iPhone/Healthcare Entrepreneur, and Founder of 4th Main Software where he developed hLog a Health tracking application (app) for the iPhone.

hLog is an application that anyone with an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch can use to track health, vital health stats, exercise regimens, sleep patterns, medicines, and more. hLog can chart and compare the effects of medicines, exercise regimens, and sleep patterns over time.

Gangadhar lost his father to Lymphoma a year ago and since then he has been interested in helping find a cure for cancer. When Apple introduced the iPhone and iPod Touch, he was excited about the possibilities that this would bring in patient care and disease research. He built the application in consultation with Dr. Scott Bender MD.


Now I love BHAG's (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and helping to cure cancer with an iPhone app is clearly a great BHAG, so I asked Gangadhar if I could interview him for the Wardo-gram. He graciously accepted.

Here is the interview with Gangadhar Sulkunte:

Wardo: I understand that you have developed an iPhone application called hLog. How would you describe it?

Gangadhar: hLog is an application for the users to record all of their health related information. Many times, we are instructed to record many aspects of our health and we are unable to keep it all in one place due to writing them down on scraps of paper. With hLog, now you have a digital log where you can accurately record your health. This is the only app on the app store which is focused on your entire health. There are other apps which help in recording your blood sugar levels, BP, temperature etc. But hLog is the only one which records all these aspects and more. The main advantage of hLog comes in when you analyze your data by creating reports which show you a all aspects of your health. For eg., you can create reports which show when your sugar level spiked, what medicines made you most stressed, what aspect of your lifestyle (like exercise, sleep) caused your back pain or insomnia to flare up etc.

hLog is also serves as your emergency health card. You can store information about your health background, health insurance information and primary doctor's contact information which can be shared with the doctors when required.

Wardo: Who was hLog developed for and how can they use it?

Gangadhar: hLog was developed for all users who need to store health information either for themselves or for someone in their care. It can be used in cases where someone has a chronic condition like back pain, insomnia, diabetes, etc. They can record their health, the medicine intake and daily activities like sleep, mood, exercises etc. This helps their doctors to get a complete picture to provide good advice on how to control their chronic condition.

The app can also be used by parents of young children. When my son was very young, the pediatricians would ask us to record his health condition (when he was sick and he was sick very often!) and we always did it on google spreadsheets and notebooks. With hLog, you can record your child's health accurately and timely.

Ultimately, I feel the app can also be used when the users or someone in their care have a serious condition like cancer. With the many things that one has to record in these cases, hLog can be a huge help to record the health accurately.

Wardo: Why did you develop hLog?

Gangadhar: My father passed away from Lymphoma last year. After that, I wanted to do something to help cure cancer. I tried many things like reading up everything I came across on cancer and for a while I even started a blog which I thought might help patients and their care givers. None of this satisfied me since I wanted a hands on approach to helping find a cure for cancer. I read a book called "Numerati" where they say that the next big cures like cures for cancer, AIDS etc will not come from just doctors but will come from a collaboration among doctors, mathematicians and computer scientists. So, I figured that I can definitely help in this endevor. I had to start small and start somewhere and I started with hLog.

Wardo: How could an iphone application help cure cancer?

Gangadhar: An application like hLog which helps track 'Observations of daily life" can help doctors and cancer researchers in many ways. The researchers have insight into what is going on in the patient's health beyond the lab test results. This will also provide input to the mathematical models which can help understand the impact of the many things from the patient's life on the medicines and the cancer. I believe that this can lead to a cure for cancer one day.

I recently came across these NY Times news items about how crowdsourcing can help in finding cures to hitherto incurable diseases:

These reinforce my thought that patients can take an active role in finding cures for diseases like cancer. hLog can help in that.

The other aspect is if enough people track their health for a long enough time using an app like hLog, researchers might also be able to find out what causes cancer. This way we can prevent cancer from occurring!

Wardo: What are your plans for hLog next?

Gangadhar: I want to make hLog read health data from the many devices that are used in the home setting like BP monitors, blood sugar monitors, thermometers etc so that the data entry can be automated. The other area that I am exploring is to make a version of hLog that can run on the Android platform and if netbooks become more predominant, a version that works on a netbook. I also want to hLog to upload your data to Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault. This way, the doctors have one view of your health through these sites.

In order to help patients to manage their health proactively, I want to provide health indicators in the app. This will be useful for someone who has a chronic condition like Diabetes, BP etc. This can provide feedback to them after they record their health data.

All the above are very ambitious and I feel that the fastest way to get them done is to go open source. We are actively working on making hLog the first iPhone healthcare application to go open source.

Wardo: Your website indicates that hLog is the first one in a series of apps you are developing. Can you share what 4th Main Software is working on next?

Gangadhar: This is a tough one. I know that I will be working on many apps other than hLog. I have no new apps in the pipeline as of now. However the plan is to continue updating hLog as previously described and use that as a input to decide which other type of apps to develop.

Wardo: Thank you Gangadhar. We wish you luck.

You can reach Gangadhar through 4th Main Software or Twitter.