TechTool Talk 003

As part of TechTool Thursday, I thought it would be interesting to look at more than just app reviews.  This week I interview Peter Canning

petercanningPeter Canning developed the EM Ultrasound App that was reviewed in TechTool Thursday 006.  Here we meet him to find out more about what led to this app’s development

Tell me a bit about your medical background/career?
I went to medical school at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland Oregon.  I then did my residency training in emergency medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. I am now back living in rural Oregon, practicing at a community hospital.

When did you start becoming involved in health innovation?

I have always been interested in technology, but really became interested in using apps to provide medical education during my residency training.

What led to you start building an app?

During my residency training I was learning the application of bedside ultrasound and was overwhelmed.  I started looking for a concise reference tool and couldn’t find a resource that I was satisfied with.  I had just purchased my first iPhone and there was nothing like this available. I started taking notes and decided to try to make my own app.

Where did you learn your IT skills?

I did take a computer programming course in college, but failed my first exam one week in and dropped the class.  That’s the extent of my formal training.  I really learned by downloading apple’s SDK (Software Development Kit) and reading the huge volume of coding information that they provide.

The internet, and a lot of patience, is really all you need to start programming. I read various programming blogs and forums online and began experimenting with Apple’s software.  Apple also provides quite a bit of sample code that allows comparison of actual code with the functionality of simple apps.  My app has been built largely from trial and error

Have you been involved in other IT projects?

I am now consulting on an exciting project that a colleague of mine Dr. Brian Phelps is working on.  His company Montrue Technologies has created an award-winning Emergency Department Information System (EDIS) for the iPad. You can check it out at 

What has been the key to your success developing EM apps?

I have the advantage of being a physician creating apps for physicians.  I actually use my own app during clinical shifts.  I am aware that emergency physicians want a resource that is concise, but useful.  The key has been to provide just enough information in a simple format. ER physicians have high expectations and a limited attention span for reference materials. Finding a balance between content and usability has been challenging.

My app has been successful with an international audience, largely because its content is wholly within the app (not requiring streaming from an internet connection). The app is large, and I struggled initially with this decision; but now the app can be used anywhere at any time. 

I was also lucky that when I started this project, a comparable app didn’t really exist. I found my niche.

What are you careers aims for the next 10 years?

To stay happy, healthy and satisfied working in the emergency department. I want to continue to contribute to medical education though technology.  I will also keep working on brewing better beer.  Who knows, maybe I will go pro

What or who inspires you?

Ernest Shackleton inspires me.  I am early in my career and my senior emergency medicine colleagues who have been doing this for years inspire me.  My amazing wife and family continually inspire me

What advice would you give to a clinician wanting to improve their IT skills?

Read a lot. Have patience and don’t give up

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

My grandfather used to always say, “try for a little honesty, a little courage and a little love”

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  1. says

    Way to go Peter! I went to residency with Peter and just wanted to say that he’s even more attractive in person. I know it’s hard to believe, but he’s really something to behold. One time I led a residency conference Jeopardy hour (my 3rd yr and Peter’s 2nd) with a full category of questions dedicated to the life and times of the great Peter Canning……..true story. As brilliant as he is, though, he’s still nothing compared to his wife.