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5 Universities Exploring the Potential of Digital Health

Thursday, July 27, 2017   • Posted by Erika Vázquez

Digital health centers, big data labs, and wearable-focused research facilities are becoming increasingly common at leading academic institutions across the country.

Here’s a look at how some of the most prominent universities in the country are advancing research and exploring the benefits of wearable sensor technology.

Stanford University’s Center for Digital Health and Wearable Health Lab

In January 2017, Stanford University announced the launch of their Center for Digital Health, which aims “to advance the field of digital health by promoting these partnerships, performing clinical research and educating the next generation of physicians and digital healthcare leaders.”

Mintu Turakhia, MD, Assistant Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Senior Director of Research and Innovation at the center, explained the center’s initiative to efficiently generate evidence that will inform decisions and lead to positive outcomes for stakeholders including “patients, doctors, hospitals, insurers, regulators, and investors.” Turakhia said the Center for Digital health will set out to answer questions such as ...

  • What are the most effective ways to incorporate new digital tools into health care?
  • Will these solutions actually improve patient care?
  • Is the process of implementing these tools worth the costs?

Ongoing research out of the Center for Digital Health includes smartADHERE, a study that uses a mobile app to improve anticoagulation adherence in atrial fibrillation. Another project is Discover-AF, a pilot study for atrial fibrillation utilizing a wearable patch sensor.

Stanford Medicine’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department is also home to a Wearable Health Lab. The lab’s Director, Matthew Smuck, MD, says the lab’s mission is to “focus on mobility-limiting diseases” and “leverage wearable biosensor data to uncover digital phenotypes of disease, and to develop tools for precision health.”

Published research from the lab includes two articles on the use of activity monitors and the application of accelerometry in the research of lumbar spinal stenosis.

USC Center for Body Computing

In 2006, Dr. Leslie Saxon founded the USC Center for Body Computing, with the vision of bringing “together digital and life sciences executives, sensor and mobile app investors, strategists, designers, investors and visionaries from healthcare, entertainment and technology to collaborate on transformative care solutions.” With the assistance of Keck Medicine and Proactive Sports, the center runs clinical trials and performance studies. To unite leaders in digital health innovation, the Center hosts an annual Global Body Computing Conference, coming up on its 11th year.

Pivotal research out of the center includes ...

UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied LIfe Sciences and Center for Personalized Health Monitoring

Umass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences was established in 2014 and consists of 30 facilities that enable its mission to “translate fundamental discoveries on campus into novel candidate medical devices, biomolecules, and delivery vehicles that benefit human health.” The Center for Personalized Health Monitoring is one of the Institute’s three centers and focuses on accelerating “the development and commercialization of low-cost, multi-function, wearable, wireless sensor systems for personalized health care and biometric monitoring.”

The center houses a Mobile Health Sensing and Analytics Laboratory (mHealthLab) and a Human Testing Center, which consists of facilities for Exercise Intervention & Outcomes, Human Motion, Living Science, Room Calorimeter, and Sleep Monitoring. Subjects reside in the Room Calorimeter living space for up to 48 hours while their energy expenditure is precisely measured in order to calibrate wearable sensors designed to capture metabolism data.

The mHealthLab is a research testbed, gathering clinically valid data from over one hundred subjects using mobile phones and wearables. Target areas include eating, smoking, drinking, exercise, and stress.

Research out of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences includes

MIT’s Living Lab

With a goal of demonstrating how to best leverage big data, MIT’s Living Lab works to “discover valuable new insights about important topics such as wellness, innovation, learning and sustainability.” The lab is setting examples for organizations on how to obtain and handle personal information and implement privacy policies. The lab collects and integrates small, personal data from smartphones and wearable sensors, larger scale MIT campus data from wifi and events, and external data from social media and transportation information.

Researchers out of the Living Lab strive to answer questions like “How can we use sensor data from smartphones and wearable devices to better measure and promote wellness on campus?” and “Can we help people track and manage chronic conditions?”

As the benefits of digital health technology become more well-known, we look forward to seeing which institutions take a page from the playbooks of Stanford, USC, UMass Amherst, and MIT.