LOS ANGELES – Researchers at the University of Southern California will use a grant from the National Institute on Aging to develop and test a mobile app designed to increase seniors’ levels of physical activity. “We’re looking at a wonderful opportunity for utilizing mobile devices to promote wellness and prevent disease,” said Stacey Schepens Niemiec, assistant professor of research at the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, in a statement. The MovingUp app features messaging that promotes positive attitudes toward aging, a coach that suggests ways to intensify everyday activities and peer-generated suggestions for activities to combat sedentary time. The researchers will beta test the app with research participants and analyze the resulting data to discover what parts of the app are most effective and why. “We intend to truly harness this technology’s life-changing potential for older adults,” said Schepens Niemiec.
SAN FRANCISCO – Fitbit has been selected as the first wearable for use in the national All of Us research program established by the White House in 2015. All of Us seeks to enroll 1 million or more participants to accelerate research that may improve the ability to prevent and treat disease based on individual characteristics. Researchers will use data gathered from the program to learn more about how individual differences in lifestyle, environment and biological makeup can influence health and disease. The project is funded by an award from the National Institutes of Health to The Scripps Research Institute. As a subset of the All of Us program, the STSI leads The Participant Center, a unit tasked with enrolling and engaging diverse populations across the country. Through this network, STSI will provide up to 10,000 Fitbit devices to a representative sample of All of Us volunteers for a one-year study. At the end of the study, the researchers will provide recommendations on how the devices could be more broadly incorporated into the All of Us research program. The study will also generate a data set to explore the relationship between health indicators such as physical activity, heart rate and sleep in conjunction with other health outcomes that will be captured as part of All of Us. “As part of the global shift towards precision medicine, wearable data has the potential to inform highly personalized healthcare,” said Adam Pellegrini, General Manager of Fitbit Health Solutions, in a statement. “Through this historic initiative, we will be able to see the role that Fitbit data can play on the path to better understanding how individualization can help to prevent and treat disease.”
KYOTO, Japan –Researchers from Kyoto University’s Center of Innovation and Panasonic Corporation have developed a radar-based device that can instantaneously and accurately measure the body’s vital signals. The sensor combines a radar with signal analysis algorithms to measure how the body moves as the heart beats. “Measuring respiration and heart rate—without attaching cumbersome wires to the body—will greatly benefit modern medicine and home health care,” said Toru Sato, lead researcher, in a statement. The device is about the size of an average smoke detector and can measure the heart rates of multiple individuals in the same room. Researchers suggested the device could be installed in household appliances like lighting to monitor the vitals of residents. Sato said the team of researchers is considering test sites for the device.
STANFORD, Calif. – A network of sensors, screens and smart devices being developed at labs around the world will extend the reach of caregivers and enable more people to manage their health at home, according to a researcher from Stanford University.
“We see this ecosystem as enabling a doctor to have continuous monitoring of a patient,” said Bryant Chu, a member of the design group in Stanford’s mechanical engineering department, where research is being done on the components that make up the bodyNET system, a four-layer ecosystem of components that includes devices and sensors that are implantable, dermal, incorporated into clothing and worn externally.
The bodyNET system’s core technology is made of electronics that can stretch and feel more like the human touch and can enable health professionals to see how a patient is feeling in real-time. The “elastronics” technology allows patients to interact with digitally networked devices and makes raw data from wearable devices more useful, Chu said.
While the idea of the bodyNET system may seem far-reaching, Chu thinks it’s something that could be a reality within the next 20 years. Before that happens, though, testing of the separate components will need to happen in controlled settings and industry concerns about privacy and security will need to be allayed, he said.
“We see a system like bodyNET as humanizing the technology rather than technology replacing us,” Chu said. “The idea of humans and technology coming together can be scary, but with a slight reframe of perspective, there’s an excitement about what could exist.”
SEATTLE – Sage Bionetworks and Celgene Corporation have introduced Journey PRO, a mobile health research study designed to improve the understanding of disease burden on people living with chronic anemia due to myelodyspastic syndromes, myelofibrosis and beta-thalassemia. The study is using mobile and wearable technologies to quantify the daily burden of chronic anemia on patients living with these diseases. “Journey PRO will provide direct and immediate information back to research participants to help them manage their health,” said Lara Mangravite, president of Sage Bionetworks, in a statement. Participants will be able to use the Journey PRO mobile app to track key health data and schedule appointment dates. They will also be able to visualize their study data, and can choose to download the data and share it with their health care team.
DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreens has launched its Center for Health & Wellbeing Research, a website that features more than 50 of its outcomes studies in the areas of digital health and member engagement, adherence and clinical outcomes, access to care, patient experience and more. “Our goal is, through scientific research, to help improve patient care and outcomes while lowering health care costs,” said Dr. Harry Leider, chief medical officer and group vice president of Walgreens, in a statement. Walgreens is working with academic institutions on its research, including Johns Hopkins and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Scripps Transitional Science Institute and the University of California, San Francisco.
URBANA, Ill. ‑ Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a spectrometer that attaches to a smartphone to analyze samples of blood, urine and saliva, as well as clinical instruments.
“Our transmission-reflectance-intensity analyzer is like the Swiss Army knife of biosensing,” said Brian Cunningham, the director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Lab at the University of Illinois, in a statement.
The TRI analyzer uses a smartphone’s camera as a high-performance spectrometer to collect data from an LED light sent through an inserted sample cartridge. The optical components are then arranged in a 3D-printed plastic cradle. In studying the analyzer’s ability to perform a test on detecting the biomarker associated with pre-term birth in pregnant women and a PKU test to detect an enzyme for growth and development, researchers found the results of both tests were comparable in the results reached by conventional lab equipment.
“It’s capable of performing the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics, so in practice, thousands of already-developed tests could be adapted to it,” Cunningham said.
The TRI Analyzer can measure multiple samples in a single cartridge. The researchers hope the tool can be used in rural areas, where access to care and laboratory testing can be limited.
HOUSTON – Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a biofeedback system to help people with Parkinson’s disease rehab at home.
“Our overarching goal is to improve their quality of life by improving postural stability, reducing the number of falls and increasing their confidence in daily activities,” said Beom-Chan Lee, principle investigator of a study that is assessing the impacts of long-term rehabilitative training on patients using the system, in a statement.
The Smarter Balance System is a smartphone-based biofeedback system that guides patients through a series of balance exercises while they use wearable technology.
The custom, wearable belt lined with vibrating actuators creates a personalized, in-home rehabilitation program with touch guidance based on a patient’s individual range of motion. Each subtle movement is mapped in real-time for visual guidance using a series of dots and targets on the smartphone application.
The smartphone application records and creates a custom motion for their body tilt based on their individual limits of stability, said Alberto Fung, one of the researchers, in a statement.
“The touch guidance from the vibrating actuators is almost acting as if a physical therapist is guiding them,” he said.
All of the information collected by the system is uploaded to an online server and potentially can be accessed by doctors and physical therapists to track a patient’s progress or adjust the exercise regimen.
“Our system is centered around the user, and it minimizes manual interactions and is mostly automated,” said Fung.
The technology could be used by anyone experiencing balance issues, including the elderly, said Lee.
Technical improvements are currently being made to the system followed by more human subject testing. Lee said he hopes to commercialize the technology as early as next summer.
DALLAS – In the fast-changing world of home health technology, Harry Wang believes care providers, insurers and regulatory bodies must put patient-centered care first and foremost.
As senior director of research for market research company Parks Associates, Wang oversees the company’s mobility and apps research and is founder and lead analyst of Parks’ digital health research program.
We asked Wang, who is slated to be the keynote speaker at HHTN’s Home Health Technology Summit March 26-28 in New Orleans, to talk about his research and how technology is changing the world of home health care.
HHTN: What does your latest research into mobile technology and apps show for home health care?
Wang: From a consumer perspective, the use of apps for personal fitness and wellness is on the rise, and I expect demand for mobile devices and apps that can benefit their medical care will increase. The questions and needs of consumers will prompt care providers to come up with more consumer-friendly, but also data integrity protected, solutions. Innovators like CaptureProof are tapping this crossover opportunity precisely.
HHTN: What are some emerging technologies that may have the biggest impact on home health care?
Wang: Home health monitoring technology will become more powerful, yet at a lower cost and more easy to use. An example is TytoCare’s recent partnership with American Well, which enables doctors to check on patients remotely by using a health monitoring kit that can be easily delivered to consumers’ home; another area of particular interest is virtual care enabled by technology for the benefit of family caregivers.
HHTN: Are technology developments outpacing users’ abilities?
Wang: I am not too concerned about that because every new technology outpaces user abilities in its early days. It is the progression and adaption of technology to eventually meet the needs of the consumer majority that really matters. In the health care space, that cycle takes much longer than other industries because health care is mostly business-to-business-to-consumer, whereas others are mostly business-to-consumer. It is imperative for care providers, insurers and regulatory bodies to put patient-centered care as their core mission and shorten the technology development cycle to remove political, regulatory and financial barriers.
HHTN: Do you think the mobile app space needs more guidelines and direction?
Wang: The mobile app space is no longer unchartered territory because serious money is flowing in and care providers’ attitudes towards mobile apps has shifted from “It is a consumer thing” to “We ought to invest in it because it has real benefit to us clinically and business-wise.” The current guidelines and regulations from the app industry itself and regulatory bodies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are adequate and not too excessive, in my opinion. App developers have also learned from their experience the balance between innovation and respect to established care practices. This dynamic is conducive to the healthy growth of the mobile health app market.