Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

California university lands $9.75m mhealth research grant

Steve Rogerson
October 20, 2015
Building on the success of the Health eHeart study at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), the National Institutes of Health has awarded $9.75m to the university over the next five years to create Health ePeople, a platform that will enable investigators to conduct mobile and wireless health research in a less costly, more streamlined manner.
The research platform aims to accelerate mobile health by providing researchers with access to a large cohort of volunteers who have agreed to participate in the research, along with a quick, affordable means for collecting their health data through mobile and wireless technologies.
Health ePeople builds on the Health eHeart study, which harnesses the power of online and mobile technology to gather cardiovascular data from study participants through devices such as smartphone apps, ECG smartphone cases and portable blood pressure cuffs. With a goal of one million participants, Health eHeart already has more than 30,000 people enrolled from around the world, with no study centres other than the one at UCSF.
“The primary goal of Health ePeople is to provide a resource enabling convenient and efficient mobile and wireless health research,” said co-principal investigator Jeffrey Olgin, professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at UCSF. “It will help investigators collect mobile health data via integration with sensors, devices and apps, deliver online surveys, connect with external data sources including electronic health records, and use novel methods for ascertaining and adjudicating clinical outcome events.”
The other co-principal investigators of the study are Gregory Marcus, director of clinical research in the UCSF division of cardiology, and Mark Pletcher, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and director of the informatics and research innovation programme at the UCSF Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute.
Health ePeople will use data from patients enrolled in the Health eHeart study and recruited externally. It will have several external advisory groups in data standards, technical, research, participation, ethics, advisory and business.
The team is planning to collaborate and coordinate with other major on-going mhealth-related projects.
Since its launch in 2013, the Health eHeart study has implemented a user-friendly interface to collect patient-reported outcomes, validate survey data and integrate with multiple sensors, devices and apps. It uses modular electronic consenting and options for external investigators to use and enrol their own participants.
A study management portal with real-time dashboard and flexible messaging system has also been created, along with a private, secure database and data management system. These platforms have been adapted to take advantage of emerging technology and cutting-edge methods.
“Given the research backgrounds of the Health eHeart principal investigators and the fact that cardiovascular disease remains the most common killer in the USA and the world, our initial emphasis has been on cardiovascular disease,” Marcus said. “However, we and others interested in utilising our infrastructure quickly realised the immediate applicability to other disciplines. Indeed, broader interests in diet, physical activity, geo-location and smartphone use patterns have piqued the interests of many different collaborators to utilise our platform.”
The Health eHeart study has garnered national interest and partnerships with several external organisations and industry. Investigators from urology, obesity, pulmonary transplant, neurology and oncology have established research protocols using the study infrastructure.
“We are really excited to develop products that researchers can use to do mhealth-related research more efficiently and effectively,” Pletcher said. “We plan to develop a spectrum of different options for investigators to use for their research, including full-service, web-based intervention systems to simple data collection modules that can be plugged into existing web resources.”