RWJF grants $2.4M to mobile health projects

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 8, 2010        

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Project HealthDesign team has awarded a total of $2.4 million to five research teams that each aim to determine how patient-recorded observations of daily living (ODLs) can be captured and included into clinical care. RWJF notes that most of the programs make use of smartphones and wireless sensors to gather and capture ODLs, including diet, exercise, sleep patterns, medication adherence and pain.

Each of the five research teams described below received a $480,000 grant from RWJF, which has already funded $9.5 million in grants to Project HealthDesign.

Each team will receive a two-year, $480,000 grant. Since 2006, RWJF has committed a total of $9.5 million in grant funds and technical assistance to Project HealthDesign. Here are the most recent recipients:

RTI International and Virginia Commonwealth University — Richmond, Virginia

Asthma is a common, chronic illness, affecting over 23 million adults in this country. In addition to respiratory symptoms associated with the disease, individuals with asthma are also more likely to experience depression and anxiety. RTI International and Virginia Commonwealth University will design a personal health record application, BreathEasy, building on the latest clinical guidelines for treatment and self-monitoring for patients with asthma and depression. Patients will interact with the application through smartphone mobile devices and biomonitors to capture and report observations of daily living (ODLs) such as use of controller and rescue medications, symptom levels, quality of life and smoking. Clinicians will utilize a Web-based dashboard providing simple analysis and visualization tools that allow them to quickly view their patients’ data, evaluate their health status and communicate any changes in treatment or monitoring. By providing a clearer picture of their health in everyday life, the ODLs will be used by both the patients and their clinicians to make lifestyle and treatment adjustments that will better manage their asthma and depression.

University of California, Irvine and Charles Drew University — Irvine, California

Early-life health decisions for pre-term, low birth weight babies can make a big difference in how well they do down the road. The University of California, Irvine and Charles Drew University will create a mobile device for collecting information from pre-term low birth weight infants and their primary caregivers that will allow them to more easily interface with their health care providers to improve care and communication. Caregivers will use a specially designed mobile device, FitBaby, to record observations of daily living (ODLs) such as the baby’s temperament, exercise, feeding and sleeping schedules, as well as the caregiver’s stress level and attitude swings. Providing nearly real-time data to clinicians will help alert them to early signs of health problems, which is crucial in treating low birth weight infants. The project is unique both in its goals of incorporating patient-generated information into a clinical setting and also because it collects information about the primary patients and their caregivers.

San Francisco State University — San Francisco, California

Youth from low-income backgrounds suffer disproportionately high rates of obesity. San Francisco State University will examine the potential of collecting observations of daily living (ODLs) via smartphones for low-income teens that are simultaneously managing obesity and depression. The project will utilize smartphone technology – wildly popular among young people – to make monitoring ODLs such as physical activity, food intake and mood easier and more convenient, thus making it more likely that they will enter the requested data at the appropriate times. In addition, the technology will allow the teens to easily share the data with their care team in order to help set health goals, track their progress and ultimately improve their physical and mental health.

Carnegie Mellon University — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

It is often hard to detect subtle changes in everyday activities – such as the loss of the ability to make a sandwich, dial a phone, or take medications correctly – that could indicate the onset of dementia or physical decline in adults who live alone. Carnegie Mellon University will develop and evaluate new technology that will monitor the routine of older individuals who have arthritis and are at risk for cognitive decline, providing trustworthy data for long-term functional assessment and treatment. The technology will monitor routine tasks such as taking medication, movement around the home and cooking. It will then present the information to key stakeholders including participants, caregivers and clinicians, so that they can detect and better understand the individual’s changing cognitive and physical abilities. By identifying decline at an early stage, caregivers will have a chance to halt or even reverse deterioration that might otherwise result in an unsafe living situation and ultimately require the person to be institutionalized.

University of California, Berkeley — Berkeley, California

There are 600,000 people in the United States who suffer from the digestive disorder Crohn’s disease. The disease is most prevalent in young adults ages 18 to 35 and can not only be complicated and expensive to treat but also has significant social and emotional implications. The University of California, Berkeley in partnership with The Healthy Communities Foundation and the University of California, San Francisco will help young adults who suffer from the disease create visual narratives of their condition and treatment to provide concrete feedback to providers about how they feel from day to day. The project will include patients tracking observations of daily living (ODLs) such as physical symptoms like diarrhea, bleeding and profound weight loss, along with more complex social and emotional observations. The information will then be shared with the provider and discussed during their clinical appointments to help the patient and clinician get a more accurate picture of what’s happening between appointments with the goal of being able to reduce exacerbation of symptoms and undesired consequences of treatment, ultimately increasing the quality of the patient’s life and care.

For more from the press release, read on here

  • http://www.dollecommunications.com Stephen Dolle

    This capability has been available to us since the late 1990s. I pioneered and patented a home clinical data collection system for hydrocephalus in 1997, termed the DiaCeph Test http://www.dollecommunications.com/DiacephPatent.htm. Also in 1997, researchers at Henry Ford Institute and the University of Pittsburgh with funding from the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team pioneered a now well known software app for post concussion monitoring, the IMPACT TEST. This later test has been huge in managing concussions in sports play.

    I suffered a brain injury and post traumatic hydrocephalus in 1992, and began exploring how math and consumer technologies could aid those with brain injury and disorders. I recall that 8 years ago neurologists at the U. of Iowa created an over the telephone dimentia test that was reasonably accurate. One could argue the reason these tools have yet to be put into use is due to our present (capitalism) treatment model, where there’s little profit or incentive for industry to prevent illness. Not to mention our current reimbursement model.

    I look to see these clinical tools in wide use in the next several years as government and Congress set new standards for digitized and wireless health data. At present, I am offering my DiaCeph method of hydrocephalus monitoring on paper forms and instructions as a consultation service, where I interpret the data and generate a report. One other issue yet to be addressed in these new clinical tools is whether physicians are willing to interpret the results and how they would be paid for doing so.

    Stephen Dolle
    Dolle Communications

  • http://www.MyVermontMedicalHome.com Peter Schickler, Button Systems Inc.

    I agree with Stephen in that this technology is already in place but not being adopted readily. We have a complete patient centric medical home application that collects daily data from patients and is made available to the providers with permission to view it. The application also allows providers to make up ad hoc surveys and distribute them to their patients with a click of the mouse. The application then administers the surveys and reports the results back to the provider. The patient level is comprehensive, allowing a variety of chronic disease measures to be tracked and reported. But, as Stephen says, the present (capitalism) treatment model has little profit or incentive for our industry to prevent illness. Our application is portable, and fairly priced, especially for research projects that need daily patient data collection and analysis.
    Pete Schickler
    Button Systems Inc.
    Castleton VT.