CitiSense aims to improve air quality data with wearable sensors

By: admin | Oct 29, 2012        

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CitiSense Air Quality Field Study AppBy Padma Nagappan

While healthcare is shifting from provider-centered episodic care to outcome-based, patient-centered care, at least one speaker at last week’s Wireless Health 2012 event believes that more personalized air quality data should be a part of the healthcare discussion, too. In chronic conditions like asthma and cancer, environmental exposures play a major role in disease development, yet care givers and public health officials only have sparse regional measurements of the environment that give them bird’s eye views.

Personal exposure to these factors can be measured with body-worn sensors and smartphones and when it’s collected from many people and analyzed across an entire region, it can revolutionize how public health is practiced, say the researchers behind CitiSense.

“Studies have shown asthma is more prevalent in communities close to highways, yet 30 percent of our schools are built next to highways, so it’s not surprising we have such a high incidence of asthma,” one of CitiSense’s lead researchers Nima Nikzad told attendees at the WLSA event in San Diego last week. A group of doctoral students including Nikzad from the University of California, San Diego’s computer science and engineering department presented a paper on their findings using their system at the conference.

Their research showed that current air quality monitoring was insufficient and personal participatory sensing would enable a much more accurate picture. Nikzad, who represented the group, said the system can bridge the gap between personal sensing and regional measurement, by offering micro-level detail but at the regional level.

A user study, with 16 people who used different methods of transport but had at least a 20 minute commute daily, found that measurements varied significantly from those provided by official regional pollution monitoring stations. Applying geospatial statistical techniques enabled CitiSense to plot air quality data on a very detailed regional map and results from its early studies suggest personal sensing devices have an important role to play in the future.

Nikzad showed a detailed map of the UCSD campus where he lives and results which showed how air quality varied in different areas, depending on if it was a walkway or a bus terminus. The sensor reads air quality, transmits back to their servers which transmit the information to the user’s smartphone.

“Since the EPA does not have enough sensors on the ground to capture this data, although we’re not suggesting CitiSense be used for this purpose, something like this would help community leaders identify hotspots of pollution,” Nikzad said.

In wrapping up, he admitted that one of the challenges will be keeping the sensors calibrated on the field, as will detecting and correcting faulty sensors. Energy would need to be better managed so the device does not drain some one’s smart phone of battery power. CitiSense used a combination of equipment that cost $500 in total.

The opportunities are numerous, Nikzad said, and better understanding of exposure will lead to better understanding of disease etiology and revolutionize the practice of public health.

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Center for Connected Health to study SMS for managing cancer pain

By: Neil Versel | Oct 29, 2012        

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Joseph Kvedar, The Center for Connected HealthFor the second year in a row, the Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare in Boston has received a McKesson Foundation research grant to develop and study a text messaging system that will help patients with a specific condition. This time, the unspecified grant will support SMS and voice response technology for managing pain associated with cancer treatment in hopes of reducing hospitalizations and improving outcomes.

“We believe this will be the first-of-its-kind mobile health program to support pain management for cancer patients, incorporating evidence-based interventions with a scalable mobile platform,” Center for Connected Health Director Dr. Joseph Kvedar tells Healthcare IT News.

Harvard-affiliated researchers will study 122 adults with lung cancer and moderate to severe pain for four months. Half will be asked to assess and report their cancer-related pain via text messaging or interactive voice response and will receive feedback on how to manage symptoms, based on clinical guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. A control group will only get standard treatment as the Center for Connected Health test the impact of mobile interventions on the daily life of cancer patients.

“There is increasing evidence for the use of interactive voice response technologies in mobile health interventions because it is low cost, convenient, reliable and effective for symptom and treatment monitoring in chronic disease management,” principal investigator Dr. Kamal Jethwani, corporate manager for research and innovation at the Center for Connected Health, says.

The McKesson Foundation is funding the research through its Mobilizing for Health program. A year ago, the program awarded a grant to the Center for Connected Health to integrate text messaging into a diabetes self-management program serving low-income populations.

Why physicians will prefer an iPad mini: It’s pocketable

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 25, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsThe iPad mini, which is priced at as low as $329, is “as thin as a pencil”, according to Apple. Physicians, however, are likely more interested in the device’s other two dimensions: Since the iPad mini is 7.87 inches tall by 5.3 inches wide, it is the first iPad that can fit into the standard lab coat pocket. Those typically measure about 8.5 inches by 7.5 inches.

About one third of physicians that Epocrates polled leading up to Apple’s big announcement earlier this week said they planned to buy the device if it turned out to be a real product. Epocrates’ survey took place when the iPad mini was still just a (very, very widely spread) rumor, but at the time 90 percent of those physicians who told Epocrates they were interested in buying it said that the smaller size was their main motivation because it would be easier to carry it around with them on rounds.

In an interview with the Washington Post this week, Forrester technology analyst Sarah Rotman Epps also noted that the device would likely prove popular for healthcare providers: “In the medical industry – carrying around full-sized iPads isn’t that practical,” she said. “A smaller, lighter device expands the number of people who can use the device regularly.”

In May of this year, Manhattan Research announced that based on its survey of physicians in the US some 62 percent were already using a tablet of some kind. Most of them were iPad users at the time, according to the research firm. About half said they used tablets at the point of care. The year before — in May 2011 — the company published results from a similar survey that found about 30 percent of physicians in the US used iPads to access EHRs, view radiology images, and communicate with patients at that time.

By all accounts the iPad has dominated tablets in the physician market these past few years, and if recent surveys are to be believed, the smaller iPad mini may win over some hold outs, too. Still, at half the screen size, just 7.9 inches, and the resolution of the iPad 2 (no retina display like iPad 3 and 4), the iPad mini may find different use cases at the point of care than its predecessors or its smaller cousin the iPhone.

Preorders for the iPad mini start this Friday, October 26th, and it will hit store shelves and start shipping next Friday, November 2nd.

In other news: MobiHealthNews has just published a free report, called Healthy Feedback Loops, that includes a number of examples of different ways that consumer health companies are using various incentives to encourage users to make healthier decisions. It’s a worthwhile review for longtime MobiHealthNews readers, but also a great introductory report for those who recently joined the digital health fray. Download your complimentary copy right here!

Pediatricians increasingly favor SMS over pagers, but HIPAA concerns loom

By: Neil Versel | Oct 25, 2012        

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Female Doctor with TabletIt has been years in the making, but text messaging is finally overtaking the antiquated pager as a means for physicians and hospital staff to communicate with each other, at least within children’s hospitals.

In a survey of 106 physicians at pediatric hospitals, researchers from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita found that 27 percent named texting their preferred method for brief communications, compared to 23 percent that favored hospital-issued pagers and 21 percent that said face-to-face conversation. Among the survey pool, 57 percent reported sending or received work-related text messages.

The Kansas team presented their findings this week at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) annual meeting in New Orleans.

“We are using text messaging more and more to communicate with other physicians, residents and even to transfer a patient to a different unit,” lead investigator Dr. Stephanie Kuhlmann said in an AAP press release.

“The way that physicians are communicating appears to be shifting away from the traditional pager method,” Kuhlmann also told Medscape Medical News. “Personally, I probably get 50 to 100 text messages during a shift,” she added. “But unlike many physicians, I don’t carry a pager, so everything comes to my cell phone.”

Nine in 10 survey respondents said they regularly used a smartphone and 96 percent participated in text messaging, whether with colleagues or just friends and family. Twelve percent were like Kuhlmann in that they send at least 10 messages per shift and only only 5 percent said they received more than 20 messages each time during a typical shift. About half received work-related texts even when they were not on call, according to AAP.

It was a rather young survey pool, as 62 percent had been in practice for no more than 10 years, and 68 percent were women. Keep reading>>

British tech company courts carmakers for heart monitor seats

By: admin | Oct 25, 2012        

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Plessey's Clive Beech

Plessey's Clive Beech, Photo Credit: Paul Savage Photography

By Padma Nagappan

Falling asleep at the wheel on long trips or when tired is a common concern for drivers. To address this problem, a British company called Plessey Semiconductors has developed sensors that can be embedded under the fabric on the back of a car seat to measure a driver’s ECG as he or she drives. Plessey discussed its technology as one of a handful of companies among the many academics and researchers that presented at the Wireless Life Science Alliance’s Wireless Health 2012 event in San Diego this week.

At an event in Japan last year Toyota showed a Prius with a steering wheel that had built-in ECG sensing. In May 2011 Ford’s research labs announced that it was working on embedding technology that appears very similar to the one Plessey demonstrated at this week’s WLSA event: Ford Research’s Gary Strumolo, Manager of Vehicle Design & Infotronics, revealed last year that the automaker was researching embedded heat rate monitors in seats to measure — among other things — a driver’s stress level.

Clive Beech, principal applications engineer at Plessey, demonstrated a hand-held device that looks like a game console, with two sensors placed on top where you rest your thumbs. The device reads your pulse within seconds, according to Beech, and transmits a continuous feed via Bluetooth to your smartphone.

The sensor compares the driver’s regular heart rate data with the data generated while he or she is driving.

“I couldn’t bring a whole car seat from the UK to show how we embed the sensors under the fabric,” Beech said, “but it’s not just for drivers, it can be used for home health and by professional ECG equipment makers too.”

Beech said his company has discussed the technology with “high end” car manufacturers in both Europe and the US.

The sensor is a small square, 10 millimeters in length and breadth and 2 millimeters thick. It would take six such sensors to cover the car seat and account for different driver heights. (Coincidentally, the image that Ford released of the heart rate sensing car seats it was developing last May also included six sensors on the car seat.)

The University of Sussex originally developed the sensor, but Plessey now has an exclusive license. The company hopes to see the sensors used in ECG equipment by next year and expects car companies to bring it to market sometime in 2014.

Tapping body heat to power monitoring devices

By: admin | Oct 25, 2012        

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Geral Wiant of Perpetua with DHS jacket

Geral Wiant of Perpetua with DHS jacket. Photo Credit: Paul Savage Photography

By Padma Nagappan

What began as a diagnostic tool to find the best place to locate an energy harvesting device on an industrial pump or motor, is now being used to trap body heat and convert it into thermoelectric energy that can power monitoring devices worn on the body.

“One of our engineers placed it on his hand by chance and it converted body heat into electricity — so that was our ‘aha’ moment, when we decided to try developing this for mobile devices,” Gerald Wiant, VP of Marketing for Perpetua Power Source Technologies, told MobiHealthNews during an interview at the WLSA’s Wireless Health 2012 conference in San Diego this week.

Perpetua, which was founded in 2005 in Corvallis, Oregon, develops commercial applications for a thermoelectric thin-film technology that the company has an exclusive license to commercialize from Battelle Memorial Institute, which runs a lab for the US Department of Energy.

The human body is a perpetual thermal engine that generates huge amounts of heat and wearable thin-film thermoelectric generators or TEGs can convert this heat into electricity. This technology can be integrated into clothing or wristbands to power ultra low-power devices that monitor activity or physiological conditions, Ingo Stark, chief scientist at Perpetua said.

At the event Perpetua demonstrated a black jacket that uses the TEG technology to convert body heat into energy to power body-worn sensors. Perpetua has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology division to test the jacket.

The company, which currently has about 25 employees, has received “significant” funding from the Coquille Indian Tribe, which is based in Southern Oregon, and has also leveraged grants that total about $2 million to develop its technology.