UArizona Center Targeting Remote Patient Monitoring Tech Invests in Future of In-Place Care & De-Centralized Research

UArizona Center Targeting Remote Patient Monitoring Tech Invests in Future of In-Place Care & De-Centralized Research

The University of Arizona’s electrical and computer engineering professor Janet Roveda leads a multi-center research team on a mission to develop a future involving ubiquitous wearable devices, allowing the clinician to gather patient data remotely while providing “care in place,” enabling patients to stay in the comfort of their home. This future benefits all sorts of patients in myriad care scenarios but also participants in clinical trials that eventually will become far more decentralized and home-based than they are today. Recently, $3 million from the National Science Foundation found its way to the Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IURC) with prominent involvement involving UArizona—the research center will receive $1.125 million.

IURC involves a number of partner institutions, including Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Southern California, and the California Institute of Technology. At UArizona, the initiative is led by principal investigator Janet Roveda supported by Co-investigators Ao Li, research assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering; Kathie Melde, associate dean of faculty affairs and inclusion at the College of Engineering; and Hao Xin, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Could the convergence of cloud computing, smart devices, and medical data represent a fourth industrial revolution?  Well, when factoring in the ongoing automation of all traditional manufacturing and industrial spheres with modern, smart technologies leading to the large-scale, machine-to-machine communication combined with the internet of things (IoT), the implications across sectors, including healthcare and life sciences, are exceptional.  With continuous connectivity, automation, and self-monitoring, health data can now be collected, analyzed, and diagnosed in some cases with no need for human intervention

UArizona president Robert C. Robbins, MD, agrees with this sentiment, sharing recently, “Our researchers are leading efforts to maximize the power of these technologies. This important work aligns with the university’s continued focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is characterized by the increasing convergence of the digital, physical and biological worlds.” Of course, the fourth industrial revolution’s impact on health care and research should be profound.

These trends toward remote patient monitoring (RMP) are made possible by a wave of technological advancement over the past decade or two. These range from ubiquitous cloud computing to breakthrough smartphones and devices to improved connectivity and an explosion of apps—many of them FDA regulated—led by prominent names such as Fitbit and Apple Watches as the population increasingly embraces wearable technology. This market, according to a recent press release from University of Arizona (UArizona), could be valued as high as $116.2 billion with a projection to more than double to $265.4 billion by 2026.

Why is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) Important to the Trial Site?

 With growing hardened medical use cases, what were good for workouts a few years ago, now such wearables can detect heart rate, blood pressure, and even sleeping patterns. With continuous data collection, a treasure trove of data now exists if apps collecting such information can be effectively validated.

Back in April, Joseph Constance writing for TrialSite reported in “Remote Patient Monitoring Gains Traction, Optimizes Data Collection and Patient Centricity” that RPM technology represented an instrumental prerequisite for the emergence of decentralized clinical trials. With the COVID-19 pandemic, these trends only accelerated given the circumstances of home isolation, lockdowns, etc. Constance wrote in TrialSite that “RPM is about more than technology. It’s part of a larger equation to make clinical trials more accessible to participants. RPM helps patients center around the clinical trial protocol. It provides subtle notifications and guidance along the patient journey.” He added, “You might even harness RPM technologies to combine data from different sources to identify novel outcomes.”

Center to Stream Healthcare in Place (C2SHIP)

First selected with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) just a few years ago in 2018, this University of Arizona-led team at the time launched the endeavor with just $15,000. 

Now the stakes have grown for C2SHIP with an NSF grant totaling $3 million, with $1.125 million earmarked for UArizona. With numerous prominent partners, the C2SHIP mission centers on bringing together the academic and industry partners to promote and intensify joint efforts to develop in-home technologies for managing chronic diseases at the patient’s home for example while accelerating innovation via multi-specialty collaborations and resource sharing, and in the process hopefully preparing a workforce with the capacity for driving better healthcare outcomes via self-care technologies.

C2SHIP’s driven by a series of strategies, including the following:

  • Emphasize fundamental investigations that provide in-depth understanding for the core disciplines needed for personalized technology that promotes in place care
  • Establish effective interactions with Center members to build innovation capacity and accelerate technology transfer
  • Promote collaborations with other existing centers to create multi-center innovative technology for the involved core disciplines
  • Inclusive of advisory board involving industry, academic and government partners, the center and its funding directs initiatives in four (4) key areas including:
  • Design: Wearable sensors/Internet of things/in-home devices/manufacturing
  • Datamining: Machine learning models to extract clinically meaningful information to promote in-place care
  • Cybersecurity/Feedback: Methods to securely stream data from multiple sensors/devices and/or visualize results back to patients/care providers using multi-modal interfaces to promote in-place care
  • Broader Impact: Education and Societal Impact of in-home technologies

Lead Research/Investigator

Janet Meiling Roveda, PhD

Ao Li, PhD, research assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering

Kathie Melde, PhD, associate dean of faculty affairs and inclusion at the College of Engineering

Hao Xin, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering.