EAST LANSING, Mich. – Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a mobile app and hardware for smartphones to measure blood pressure. The approach uses two sensors, with the sensor unit and other circuitry housed in a case attached to the back of the phone. Users turn on the app and press their fingertip against the sensor unit. With their finger on the unit, they hold their phone at heart level and watch their smartphone screen to ensure they’re applying the correct amount of finger pressure. “This device could be a game-changer,” said Ramakrishna Mukkamala, senior author of research on the technology published in Science Translational Medicine. “This invention gives patients a convenient option, and keeping a log of daily measurements would produce an accurate average, discounting an occasional measurement anomaly.”
CALGARY, Alberta – The Ward of the 21st Century (W21C), a health systems research and innovation initiative, has been named a new AGE-WELL Core Facility in Human Factors and Usability Testing.
W21C is focused on improving patient safety and quality of care and is based in the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health and in the Calgary zone of Alberta Health Services.
Launched in 2015 through the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence program, AGE-WELL is Canada’s Technology and Aging Network with a mission to accelerate innovation in the field of technology and aging that will improve quality of life and produce economic and social benefits for resident.
“The W21C will be a great resource for AGE-WELL researchers, trainees and network partners,” said Dr. Alex Mihailidis, scientific director of AGE-WELL, in a statement. “It will provide a collaborative space and expertise to help bring new ideas, prototypes or health care products for testing in pre-clinical and clinical environments.”
W21C’s facilities include the Healthcare Human Factors and Simulation Laboratory, which serves as a test-bed for innovative medical technologies and approaches. W21C’s Human Factors team uses a variety of research methods to gain a better understanding of human-system interactions to inform decisions, from product design to policy.
“Our organizations both place a premium on involving end-users―the people who will actually use our innovations―at all stages of product design and evaluation,” Mihailidis said. “This partnership will help ensure that our network members get the user’s perspective, so that we come up with useable, real-world products to support older adults and their caregivers.”
AGE-WELL core facilities promote and trigger national and international interactions for AGE-WELL and provide physical and/or virtual venues for researchers to meet, collaborate and exchange ideas.
“Finding solutions to aging in place is a strategic research priority for W21C,” said Dr. John Conly, medical director of W21C, in a statement. “Our partnership with AGE-WELL provides an exciting opportunity for us to collaborate at a national level―working with industry, government, patients and their families, and other health care providers to develop and test innovations that will enable us to age where we choose.”
STORRS, Conn. – Engineers at the University of Connecticut have developed a biodegradable pressure sensor that could help doctors monitor chronic lung disease, swelling of the brain and other medical conditions before dissolving harmlessly in a patient’s body. The research was reported in a recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The small flexible sensor has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in surgical sutures, bone grafts and medical implants and was designed to replace existing implantable pressure sensors that have potentially toxic components and must be removed after use. The researchers said other potential applications include monitoring patients with heart disease, bladder cancer and glaucoma. “We knew that if we could develop a sensor that didn’t require surgery to take it out, that would be really significant,” said Thanh Duc Nguyen, the paper’s senior author. The new sensor is capable of capturing a wide range of physiological pressures, such as those found in the brain, behind the eye and in the abdomen, and can be used in its current form to help patients avoid invasive sensor-removal surgery.
ULSAN, South Korea – Researchers in South Korea have developed a contact lens that measures glucose levels in tears, which could help people with diabetes monitor their condition. “Recent advances in wearable electronics combined with wireless communications are essential to the realization of medical applications through health monitoring technologies,” wrote the researchers in a study published recently in Science Advances. The lens, which can also measure intraocular pressure, is constructed of stretchable and transparent nanomaterials with embedded sensors and wires. “The resulting soft, smart contact lens provides real-time, wireless operation, and there are in vivo tests to monitor the glucose concentration in tears and, simultaneously, to provide sensing results through the contact lens display,” the researchers wrote. The lens has been tested in rabbits to date.
MADISON, Wis. – A team of researchers from the Wisconsin Institute of Surgical Outcomes Research at the University of Wisconsin have developed a smartphone app that enables patients to remotely send images of their surgical wounds for monitoring by nurses.
The WoundCare app was developed to aid in earlier detection of surgical site infections and reduced hospital readmissions.
“Many SSI develop in the post-discharge period and are inadequately recognized by patients,” wrote Dr. Rebecca Gunter, lead author of a study on the development of the app that was published recently in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
For the study, researchers enrolled 40 vascular surgery patients during their inpatient stay. They were trained to use the WoundCare app, which allowed them to transmit digital images of their surgical wound and answer a survey regarding their recovery. Following hospital discharge, participants completed the app daily for two weeks, and providers on the inpatient team reviewed submissions daily and contacted patients for concerning findings.
The research team detected seven wound complications with one false negative. Participant and provider satisfaction was universally high, according to the study results.
“Patients and their caregivers are willing to participate in a mobile health program aimed at remote monitoring of postoperative recovery, and they are able to complete it with a high level of fidelity and satisfaction,” wrote Gunter. “Preliminary results indicate the ability to detect and intervene on wound complications.”
DURHAM, N.C. – Microsoft has ended the HealthVault Insights research program, which it began last year in partnership with health care connectivity platform provider Validic to help patients generate new insights about their health through their own health data. “Since then, we’ve learned a lot about how machine learning can be used to increase patient engagement and are now applying that knowledge to other projects,” said the company in a statement on its website. “As part of this progression, we’ve made the decision to remove HealthVault Insights from the iOS, Android and Windows stores effective later this month.” Through the project, Validic enabled HealthVault Insights to connect to as many as 400 clinical and consumer devices—enabling the data from those devices to drive meaningful insights for patients. Patients were able to connect their in-home medical devices and wearables to HealthVault Insights, giving providers contextual information into a patient’s lifestyle, activities and health. The patients received trends and correlations that were based on their electronic health records and analyzed by Microsoft’s machine learning capabilities to improve the management of their chronic condition and general wellness. “This change will have no impact on the data users generated in HealthVault Insights, which will continue be accessible via the HealthVault website,” the company’s statement said.
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.”